COVID-19: One in 10 coronavirus patients caught virus while in hospital during first wave, research suggests | UK News

COVID-19: One in 10 coronavirus patients caught virus while in hospital during first wave, research suggests | UK News

More than one in 10 COVID patients caught the virus during the first wave of the pandemic while being treated in hospital for other reasons, according to new research.

A study of more than 72,000 patients at 314 hospitals in the UK found hospital-acquired infections rose as high as 20% in May last year.

Residential community care and mental health hospitals were found to have significantly higher rates of hospital-acquired infections – at 61.9% and 67.5% respectively – which reflects the outbreaks seen in care homes.

Hospitals providing acute or general care had a rate of 9.7%.

Of those studied, at least 11% were infected after a hospital admission.

However, researchers said this is likely to be an underestimate, as they did not include patients who may have been infected but were discharged before they could be diagnosed.

Kerry Walters' mum Caroline caught COVID while in hospital for an operation
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Kerry Walters’ mum Caroline caught COVID while in hospital for an operation

‘There should be a ring of steel around vulnerable people’

“It’s took my mum,” Kerry Walters told Sky News.

Kerry, 40, from Birmingham, said her mother Caroline Walters, 64, had been admitted to hospital for an operation, but caught the virus while there and died in April 2020.

“I can’t say a million percent she wouldn’t have caught COVID had she not been in hospital,” said Kerry.

“But I know that had she have come home after the op like she was meant to, I believe she’d still be here

“It makes me angry, there should be a ring of steel around people vulnerable in intensive care, in hospital in general.”

Calum Semple, a professor at the University of Liverpool and one of the authors of the research, said: “The reasons for the variation between settings that provide the same type of care requires urgent investigation to identify and promote best infection control practice.

“Research has now been commissioned to find out what was done well and what lessons need to be learned to improve patient safety.”

But Prof Semple added that the rates of hospital-acquired infections are now “at much lower levels”, sitting “somewhere between 2% and 5%”.

In November last year, Sky News learned an increasing number of people who needed treatment for the virus actually caught it in hospital.

covid
chart
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The estimated proportion of COVID patients with hospital-acquired infection based on 72,157 people

Dr Chris Green, an infectious diseases expert and another of the study’s authors, said there are likely to be a number of reasons for the infections.

He said: “These include the large numbers of patients admitted to hospitals with limited facilities for case isolation, limited access to rapid and reliable diagnostic testing in the early stages of the outbreak, the challenges around access to and best use of PPE, our understanding of when patients are most infectious in their illness, some misclassification of cases due to presentation with atypical symptoms, and an under-appreciation of the role of airborne transmission.”

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Better infection control practices – along with the use of PPE and side rooms in hospitals – have reduced these rates.

However, researchers said more needs to be understood about transmission in hospitals in preparations for the winter months.

Dr Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said that their learning had improved as the outbreak progressed.

“I understand why people would be angry that their relatives, their friends, have caught COVID-19 in hospitals or a social care setting”, he told Sky News,

“But let’s remember this is a problem that’s not just a UK or NHS problem, it’s happening around the world in terms of health and care.”

The research is published in The Lancet and was led by Dr Jonathan Read from Lancaster University with colleagues from universities including the University of Liverpool, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Imperial College London.



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