Researchers said that across England 17.6 per cent of all patients in hospital with Covid-19 developed their infection after admission. In the North-west, one of the worst-hit regions, rates have been as high as 25 per cent, the study found. The study by the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine analysed data from September 1 until October 26. Dr Tom Jefferson, a public health expert and co-author of the study, said: “These figures show that the separation of Covid cases and non-Covid cases hasn’t worked.
“We do not know where these infections are coming from, whether it is patients’ visitors or staff, as the data doesn’t make that clear.
“The system isn’t working. We should be using isolation hospitals and not just for coronavirus, but all highly infectious diseases.
“These figures also highlight the urgent need to provide a coherent picture of the impact of Covid – how it spreads and how to stop it.
“Measures should be targeted to protect those who we know are vulnerable to it, such as elderly people and those in hospitals.” The estimated percentage of healthcare-associated Covid infections appears to be as bad, if not worse, than that recorded during the height of the first wave.
This is despite an order from Sir Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, for hospitals to improve their Covid security in June.
Jan Coebergh, a consultant neurologist in Surrey who has worked on Covid wards, said he had seen distressing cases of patients becoming infected with the virus from other patients while in hospital.
He said: “There clearly is intrahospital patient transmission. In intensive care and the respiratory wards they have special ventilation. But the other mixed wards with people awaiting swab results don’t have very good ventilation, and so I think they are dangerous places.”
“He called for more regular testing of all hospital patients and for stricter separation.
Last week, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch published a report into hospital-acquired Covid infections and made eight safety recommendations.
The NHS-funded independent body said: “The spread of coronavirus in hospitals puts enormous strain on the workforce and the fear of contracting Covid in hospital can deter patients from attending hospital who may need urgent treatment for other conditions.”
An NHS spokesman said: “Hospitals have been asked to rigorously follow infection control guidance and the NHS offers support sessions to staff to ensure it is implemented effectively.
“Data demonstrates conclusively that rising Covid infections and hospitalisations are actually due to rising community transmission, so the public have an important role to play.”