Up to 8,700 patients died after catching Covid in English hospitals

The figures from NHS trusts in England, obtained by the Guardian, showed 32,307 people had probably or definitely contracted coronavirus while in hospital since March 2020.

Up to 8,700 patients died after catching Covid-19 in English hospital while they were being treated for other medical issues, according to official NHS figures obtained under freedom of information laws.

A total of 8,747 of those who caught Covid-19 in hospital died, according to the figures – almost three in 10 of those infected.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the newspaper that the data on infections within hospitals showed “one of the silent scandals of this pandemic”.

“The NHS has done us all proud over the past year, but these new figures are devastating and pose challenging questions on whether the right hospital infection controls were in place,” Mr Hunt, who is also the chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said.

The figures were obtained from 81 of England’s 126 acute hospital trusts under freedom of information laws.

However, the data does not distinguish between those who died of Covid-19, with Covid-19, or from a different condition that may have been exacerbated by the infection.

An NHS spokesperson told the Guardian that data from the Office for National Statistics and other sources “conclusively” showed that the “root cause” of rising infection rates in hospitals was rising rates in the community.

They added that weekly reports by Public Health England (PHE) “have consistently shown that outbreaks in hospitals are less common than in other settings”, as there were “robust infection control measures” in place.

In February, a report by PHE and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that the scale of coronavirus infections spreading within hospitals was so severe last year that it may have prolonged the first wave of the pandemic.

The paper found that the R-number for Covid-19 specifically in hospitals could have been as high as 14 – meaning each infected staff member or patient passed the virus onto 14 other people.

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