More than 800 patients likely to have caught Covid in Norfolk hospitals

A mental health nurse in Norfolk has been struck off for inappropriate behavious with a patient. Pic

High rates of Covid in the community could have led to hundreds of patients catching the virus while in hospital - Credit: IAN BURT

More than 800 people caught coronavirus inside Norfolk’s hospitals while being treated for other illnesses, analysis of NHS data suggests. 

Despite the best efforts of clinicians, the number of people catching the virus while in hospital was as high as 28 a day across Norfolk during the latest wave, according to estimates.

We calculated the figures by looking at the number of patients who tested positive for Covid more than a week after being admitted to wards. 

Explanations include high rates of infection among the community and asymptomatic patients and staff spreading the virus.

In all, 807 patients are likely to have caught Covid in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust (NCHCT) in the seven months between August 1 and January 31.

However the number is still only 2pc of the 38,000 infections reported in Norfolk since the pandemic began. 

One man, who asked not to be named, described how his 85-year-old mother was admitted to the JPUH after a flare up of arthritis a few weeks ago.

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“When she got to the hospital, she was tested in a holding area and the test came back negative," he said.

“But about five days later she tested positive, so we think she must have caught it there.

“Luckily she’s ok. The only symptom she has experienced is taste-loss, which we were told could last for a few weeks.

“You don’t expect people to go into hospital, which is meant to be clean and full of PPE and experienced staff, and then catch this awful virus there.”

Norfolk’s hospitals have said its hard to determine exactly where any given patient caught the virus, especially given the number of asymptomatic cases.

And a patient watchdog said it was “inevitable” that some people would catch the virus in hospital.

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said hospitals across the county were trying their utmost to limit hospital acquired infections.

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, has called for change at East of England Ambul

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, has called for change at East of England Ambulance Service Trust. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. NNUH

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. NNUH - Credit: Nick Butcher

“Despite the twice weekly lateral flow testing of staff, we know that some will fall through the net through inaccurate results and continue to work asymptomatically, without even knowing that they have the virus,” he added.

“The hospitals have done a fantastic job of managing infection control rates and have appropriate measures in place to limit the number of these type of infections.”

The figures suggest 262 patients are likely to have caught the virus at the QEH between August 1 and January 31. At the JPUH that figure is likely to be 252, while the NNUH’s likely total is 204.

Both the NSFT and NCHCT have 42 patients who are likely to have contracted the virus in hospital during that time.

In a joint statement, Norfolk’s NHS trusts said: “We have robust infection prevention measures in place across our hospitals and care settings, including PPE, extra cleaning, staff and patient testing, and zoning our sites for Covid and non-Covid patients, and NHS staff continue to follow national guidance to protect themselves and their patients.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. NNUH

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. NNUH - Credit: Nick Butcher

“Almost one third of all patients who have needed hospital treatment for Covid since the pandemic began were admitted last month, and it is vital that our communities continue to follow hands, face, space and stay at home as much as possible to help reduce the number of new infections.”

How we calculated the numbers

Unlike in Scotland, NHS England does not release official data on the number of Covid infections acquired in hospitals.

However, statisticians have calculated an estimate by subtracting the number of Covid patients diagnosed within seven days of admission, known as community cases, from the total number of hospital infections.

By subtracting the number of cases picked up in the community, by the total number of hospital infections, we are left with the number of patients diagnosed in hospital within the previous 24 hours, but after seven days of admission.

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