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Weaknesses that led to patients getting Covid in hospital remain

Almost as soon as the pandemic struck early last year, NHS England recognised that patients catching Covid-19 while they were in hospital for non-Covid care was a real risk and could lead to even more deaths than were already occurring. Unfortunately their fears have been borne out by events since – every acute hospital in England has been hit by this problem to some extent.

Over the last 15 months various NHS and medical bodies have looked into hospital-acquired Covid and published reports and detailed guidance to help hospitals stem its spread. They include the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) and Public Health England (PHE). Last May, for example, PHE estimated that 20% of coronavirus infections in hospitalised patients and almost 90% of infections among healthcare staff may have been nosocomial, meaning they were caught in a hospital setting.

Before the pandemic the NHS was over-stretched and resources were limited. The crisis distorted it further out of shape and despite NHS staff making huge efforts to contain the virus in extremely challenging circumstances, too often they were overwhelmed.

There are many other reasons, including inadequate ventilation, the sharing of equipment, and nurses and doctors having to gather at nurses’ stations and in doctors’ messes. Some bereaved relatives also cite hospitals deciding – inexplicably – to put their Covid-free loved ones in a bay or ward with one or more people who had the disease, sometimes resulting in tragedy.

While some of these inherent weaknesses have been addressed, others remain, leaving further infections and even more deaths in this way a distinct possibility if the NHS is hit by another Covid surge.

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Source: The Guardian, 24 May 2021


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