Recent seasons of Call the Midwife have become so sudsy that it can only be a matter of time before a baby disappears down the sluice, lost in soapy foam. Cyril has now got both religion and his girl, Lucille, and radiates joy, like a light bulb. Dr Turner, the GP who cares so much that it hurts, has had his early constant expression of quizzical amusement at the follies of his patients change into one of tortured anguish, as if all the human suffering of Poplar has been etched permanently into his face. Sister Julienne is showing early signs of being subject to a corporate take over — perhaps the writers want to warn us about what is happening to the NHS in 2021 — and Sister Monica Jones has upped her LSD habit, with deleterious consequences for her thought patterns. But even as the levels of Fairy Liquid have increased, the series has remained a true picture of traditional medical and midwifery practice, including, most importantly, tireless and valiant attempts to combat the harmful effects of the inverse care law.
What’s the most shocking thing about the chart shown in Figure 1 below, copied from this week’s ONS Weekly Deaths report? It shows the number of excess weekly deaths by place of occurrence, which ONS report from time to time, usually buried in the midriff of the report. For some, the most shocking thing might be the peak in hospital excess deaths in Spring 2020, or in the 2020/2021 winter. For others, it might be the exceptional care home peak that occurred in March and April 2020, a peak Dr No has written about before. But in each of these two settings, the peaks have been offset somewhat by other periods when the number of deaths fell below the number of expected deaths, based on the 2015-2019 average. Perhaps the most shocking thing instead is the consistent excess mortality for deaths occurring in the home. These average out at 891 excess deaths every week over the 76 weeks covered by the chart. For hospitals, the same average is 248, and for care homes it is 312 excess deaths.
Sounding today more like an episode of Midsomer Murders than a title stemming from a classic of children’s literature, the Bears of Little Brains is a reminder that those of us who work in science can all to easily become bears of little brains, falling into our own heffalump traps, and setting ourselves on the trail of a woozle. We may publish something only to find, being a Bear of Very Little Brain, that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside us is quite different when it gets out into the open, and has other people looking at it. And so it was with the second Walach publication, the research letter about children wearing masks inhaling high concentrations of carbon dioxide, which Dr No mentioned in a comment to his last post. The demolition jobs done on twitter of Walachs et al’s research letter were swift and vitriolic, and the comments tab on the letter itself is turning into an ever lengthening dossier of the delusions held by the letter’s authors. Retraction is increasingly looking inevitable.