The NHS trust that treated Captain Tom Moore for pneumonia admitted in a board meeting that a ‘significant proportion’ of its Covid patients caught the virus in hospital.
Captain Tom, dubbed a national hero and knighted by the Queen for raising over £33million for NHS charities during the Covid crisis, died on Tuesday aged 100. He caught coronavirus, having been unable to get vaccinated because he was having ongoing treatment for his pneumonia.
The World War II veteran’s family have since claimed that he contracted the virus during his stay at Bedford Hospital, where he was an inpatient for 10 days while he was ill and where he later died after testing positive.
The Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital as well as one in Luton, raised concerns about the rate of in-hospital infection in a board meeting this week.
Minutes from meeting said the ‘high transmissibility of the mutant virus’ – believed to be a reference to the Kent variant of the coronavirus, which is thought to spread around 50 per cent faster than older versions – had made it harder to control.
It revealed around one in seven of all Covid patients in January may have caught the virus in hospital – down from more than a third in October, November and December – and that some got it while they were well enough to be discharged but waiting around to be sent home.
The spread of the virus inside hospitals, known as nosocomial infection, has been a running problem for the NHS and health services globally because people often transmit the virus before they get symptoms, and can even pass it on after testing negative.
Data presented to the board of directors at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust showed that around one in seven people with Covid in its hospitals in January had tested positive five or more days after admission, suggesting they may have picked up the virus in the hospital.
Captain Tom, dubbed a national hero and knighted by the Queen for raising over £33million for NHS charities during the Covid crisis, died on Tuesday aged 100
Notes from the hospital’s board meeting on Wednesday, February 3, said: ‘A significant proportion of cases in the second surge were detected 8+ days following admission, indicating infection was due to acquisition in the hospital.
‘The highly transmissible nature of the circulating mutant virus and the inability to isolate patients in single rooms combined with infections in staff and asymptomatic carriage resulted in high numbers of nosocomial infections.
‘A significant additional factor was the length of stay for many patients who were medically fit for discharge but were unable to return to their place of residence.
PATIENT NUMBERS COULD FALL TO PRE-LOCKDOWN LEVELS ‘BY MARCH’
The number of hospital patients with coronavirus may fall to levels seen at the start of November by March 8 — the day Boris Johnson hopes schools will be able to re-open.
Patients in hospital with coronavirus across England have been falling at an average of 479 per day over the last 13 days, according to statistics analysed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).
The latest Department of Health figures shows there were 28,112 patients with Covid in hospital in England as of January 31.
The HSJ analysis revealed that the number of Covid inpatients in England had fallen by an average of 479 over the past fortnight.
The trade publication claimed that if the current speed continues, then there would be around 11,000 infected patients in hospitals on March 8.
Data from the Department of Health shows that in the first seven days of December — just after England’s second national lockdown finished — there was an average of 13,200 patients in hospital with Covid.
The equivalent figure from the start of November — before the second lockdown — stood at around 10,000.
‘Case reviews have shown that a number of these patients acquired infection while waiting appropriate and safe discharge.’
Hospitals can estimate how many people have caught the virus in their hospital by the period of time between them being admitted to hospital and testing positive.
It takes people an average of five days to develop symptoms of Covid after they catch the virus, according to the World Health Organization, and a similar amount of time for the virus to reliably show up in a swab test.
Many people in hospital have other health problems which means they are likely to get symptoms if they do catch the virus, which preys on the elderly and people who are in poor health.
Therefore, hospitals can work out that it’s likely, if someone tests positive in the first four days of their stay in hospital, that they caught the virus before they came in, because otherwise they would not test positive until later.
If they test negative on admission, however – and all patients are now tested before they go into hospital – and then don’t test positive until five or more days later, they are generally classed as having caught the virus in hospital.
In its board meeting, the Bedfordshire Hospital Trust data showed there were 775 patients who tested positive for coronavirus in January.
Of these, 106 (14 per cent, or one in seven) tested positive five or more days after admission, suggesting they likely caught the virus in hospital. Half of them – 54 – tested positive after eight days, meaning they almost certainly did.
The trust’s data showed that the proportion of patients testing positive later into their stay in hospital is significantly higher in the second wave, suggesting it has been harder for staff to contain the virus.
While between 22 and 25 per cent of cases were found after five days or more during the first wave, from March to June 2020, the proportion has been between 14 and 48 per cent during the second wave, from October to January.
Many of these cases of the virus spreading in hospital are considered by the NHS to be unavoidable.
The Bedfordshire report said: ‘There were six incidents of potentially avoidable nosocomial Covid infection. (A hospital-acquired infection also known as a nosocomial infection is an infection that is acquired in a hospital or other health care facility).’
A spokesperson for the trust said in a statement to The Mirror: ‘The safety of our patients and staff is our main priority and we have strict infection prevention processes, social distancing measures and visiting restrictions in place to help keep everyone safe, while every patient and staff member is regularly tested.’
Bedford Hospital, where Captain Tom Moore was treated for pneumonia and then later died when he returned after catching coronavirus
NHS England data shows the average number of Covid-19 cases caught on wards dropped from 553 on January 10 to an average low of 369 on January 25 in hospitals across the country
Captain Tom Moore’s family revealed this week that he only tested positive for coronavirus after his 10-day stay in hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia.
The war veteran, was clear of coronavirus on December 9 before he flew away for what would be his final holiday to Barbados, and again when he arrived home on January 6.
After returning to the UK he was admitted to Bedford Hospital on January 12 where he was diagnosed with pneumonia, but he tested negative for coronavirus in a routine test when he was admitted.
But by the time he was discharged from the hospital on January 22 tests showed he had now caught the disease, the family said.
At his home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, he was cared for by family and medics until he had to be taken back to hospital on January 31 by ambulance when he started having breathing difficulties.
The next Tuesday, February 2, his devastated daughters Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira announced he had passed away peacefully.
It is almost impossible to know for certain how someone contracts coronavirus, because it spreads silently and often comes from people who don’t know they are ill.
The virus is so hard to contain in hospitals because staff have to get very close to, and touch, patients known to have Covid-19, and there is a risk that patients test negative when entering the hospital despite actually having the virus and being capable of spreading it.
Although staff are required to wear protective equipment at all times, including face masks, aprons and gloves, these do not guarantee that they will never catch the virus.
Wards have been segregated to keep Covid-positive patients away from others who are there for treatment for other serious illnesses, but even these can be impacted by silent cases of the virus.
The risk of transmission in hospitals is also heightened because Covid patients there generally have large amounts of the virus in their body, which is what makes them sicker, making them more likely to pass it on.
Testing surveys have found that staff working in patient-facing medical roles are more likely to contract coronavirus than the general population.
But hospitals are now warning that keeping Covid and non-Covid patients separate is becoming increasingly difficult as wards get ever busier.
Papers published before a board meeting of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust, according to The Times, stated: ‘It is becoming much more difficult to separate the Covid positive and Covid negative patients.’
The documents said it was increasingly common for patients admitted into ‘cold’ areas for non-Covid treatment to be transferred into ‘hot’ areas for Covid sufferers despite showing no symptoms.
But despite this, national data showed that in January the number of people contracting coronavirus in hospital had fallen from its peak over the winter and was continuing to come down.
NHS England data show the average number of Covid-19 cases caught on wards in England dropped from 553 on January 10 to 369 on January 25, a fall of 33 per cent.
This happened despite the number of patients in hospitals rising throughout the month, with a record 34,000 inpatients in England alone by mid-January, dipping to 28,000 by the end of the month.
The number of Covid cases caught in hospital on any single day was highest on January 4 with 635 cases, a day before the third national lockdown came into force.
This then halved to a low of 304 on January 22, while the daily average, calculated over seven days, declined more slowly.