Grieving families last night said deaths had been wrongly certified as Covid-19.
Demanding an inquiry, top medical experts and MPs also insisted they were ‘certain’ that too many fatalities were being blamed on the virus.
One funeral director said it was ‘a national scandal’. The claims are part of a Daily Mail investigation that raises serious questions over the spiralling death toll.
More than 100 readers wrote heartbreaking letters following a moving article by Bel Mooney last Saturday. She revealed the death of her 99-year-old father, who suffered from dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was recorded as coronavirus.
Dozens expressed similar frustrations that the causes of death of elderly and already-unwell relatives had been wrongly attributed. Eight of the families who wrote to the Daily Mail have successfully urged doctors to change causes of death previously recorded as Covid-19.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said: ‘The Government should call a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic immediately with an interim investigation into all Covid deaths that should report as soon as possible.’
Tory MP Paul Bristow, a member of the Commons health committee, said: ‘It’s almost certain that a number of deaths have been wrongly attributed to Covid-19.
‘Not only has this skewed figures when data has been so important in deciding how we respond to the pandemic, it has caused distress and anxiety for relatives.
‘Whether we have received the most appropriate figures should definitely be considered in any future inquiry.’
A funeral director in the North West told the Mail: ‘The way Covid has been recorded and reported is a national scandal and a thorough enquiry should be opened immediately.’
Medical experts have cited pressure on doctors to include Covid-19 as a cause of death because it was last year ruled a ‘notifiable disease’, meaning any case needs to be reported officially.
Professor Clare Gerada, former chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘When this all comes out in the wash, we will find out we have over-recorded Covid-19 as a cause of death.’
Richard Vautrey, who chairs the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said the toll may have been overstated at the beginning of the pandemic when testing was not widely available and ‘cause of death would have been based on best judgement of clinical symptoms’.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We are confident the death statistics are robust and provide an accurate picture of those who have sadly died from the virus. The guidance to doctors completing a medical certificate of cause of death explains they are expected to state cause of death to the best of their medical knowledge and belief.’