More than a fifth of the COVID deaths at some hospitals occurred after patients caught infections on wards, The Daily Telegraph reports. Freedom of Information requests to hospital trusts around the UK found that 3,264 people who caught COVID in hospital have died since March last year, with nine organisations recording that more than 100 patients had lost their lives after contracting the virus in their care. Bereaved families said that the number of people who died as a result of catching the virus when they were being treated for other illnesses must be part of any future inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. The disclosure is likely to raise questions about whether infection control measures are adequate.
The Telegraph reports that the figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act include patient deaths among both “probable” cases – those who first tested positive for the virus between eight and 14 days after they were admitted to hospital – and “definite” cases – those with a positive test 15 days or more after admission.
Official figures show that more than 40,000 patients caught COVID or were suspected to, while in hospital being treated for other conditions.
An NHS England spokesperson said that “hospitals implement robust infection control measures in line with the guidance from Public Health England and other UK-wide guidance”
The Telegraph reports that an NHS respiratory consultant who wished to remain anonymous said he had seen vulnerable respiratory patients mistakenly being put on COVID wards because their symptoms were similar to COVID, and later dying after catching the virus.
“When these patients died it was especially distressing as we knew their infection was acquired in hospital,” he said. “I kept a record at first, and I got to around 15 patients who this happened to at the Trust where I was working during the first wave of the pandemic.”
A number of trusts said in their FOI responses that they could not be certain COVID was the cause of death.
All the hospitals said they had followed national infection control guidance.