Figures released by NHS England indicate that as many as 40,670 patients may have been infected with coronavirus while undergoing hospital treatment as an inpatient. On average, one in seven people treated for the virus between the start of August last year and 21st March this year contracted Covid while being treated for another problem in hospital.
Many are now concerned that this indicates the NHS is not able to adequately protect its patients. The figures show regional differences in terms of the number of people getting infected with the virus while in hospital. In some areas, the figure was much higher than in others, with one hospital reporting that nearly a third of its patients contracted the virus while in hospital.
These figures add to earlier concerns around the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK in March last year, when it is believed many more thousands of people became infected in hospital.
What the figures showed
According to the data, in one-fifth of hospitals, at least 20% of patients contracted Covid-19 while being treated as an inpatient. Figures indicate that 19% of those in hospital in the north-west contracted the virus, which compared to 11% in London. The rate was highest at the North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, standing at 31%.
Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust also had high infection rates among inpatients, reporting 28%. Increased rates for other trusts were also reported, including Brighton and James Paget in Norfolk at 27%.
Reasons behind the spread of infection in hospitals
Hospital officials have claimed that there are a few key reasons behind the number of infections among inpatients. A lack of beds was highlighted as one of these factors, while some hospitals' poor condition was also blamed. Doctors also pointed out that routine health services had to continue during the second wave of the pandemic, which increased the risk to inpatients
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said, “These heartbreaking figures show how patients and NHS staff have been abysmally let down by the failure to suppress the virus ahead of and during the second wave. It is simply staggering that one in seven hospital patients who developed Covid-19 caught the virus while being treated for another illness. This analysis also reveals deeply alarming regional disparities, with rates of hospital-acquired Covid in the north-west almost twice those in London.”
An official from the British Medical Association also pointed out that the NHS was not prepared for the pandemic and that it had been forced to try and cope without adequate funding, resources, and protection. He said that the knock-on impact of this was a rise in the number of non-Covid patients becoming infected while being treated for other medical problems.