More than 8,700 people died after catching Covid-19 in England's hospitals

Bereaved Families for Justice group describes new figures as 'horrifying'

A nurse at work in a Covid-19 ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital, England. Reuters
A nurse at work in a Covid-19 ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital, England. Reuters

More than 8,700 people died after catching Covid-19 while in hospitals in England, new figures reveal.

Data supplied by NHS trusts showed that 32,307 people developed Covid-19 in hospital since the start of the pandemic, and 8,747 of them died.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is chairman of the UK's Health and Social Care Select Committee, called it the “biggest undiscussed problem” of the pandemic and said England’s first wave could have been shortened had guidance been different.

The figures were obtained by The Guardian newspaper from responses from 81 of 123 hospital trusts in England.

The true figure is expected to be far higher as previous NHS data seen by The National showed that more than 40,600 people admitted to hospital in England during the pandemic were believed to have contracted Covid-19.

“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 said.

"We know Covid-19 is an airborne infection, so the efficacy of hospital ventilation systems must now be reviewed as a matter of urgency."

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group called the figures "horrifying".

"The mortality rate for patients and staff who were infected in hospitals is horrifying and must be stopped from happening again," the group said.

"The only way we can answer those questions is through a statutory inquiry, especially since the government continually refuses to release their internal lessons learnt review.

"The government must bring its inquiry forward to this summer and include an interim report that includes best practices on preventing transmission within hospitals in the autumn of this year. Not doing so puts more lives at risk."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a full public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic in the UK would be launched next spring, with the judge-led investigation is expected to be Britain's biggest such effort since the Iraq war inquiry.

However, he has been criticised for not starting it sooner.

A number of reports have raised concerns about failings which contributed to the UK's coronavirus death toll being the worst in Europe.

At the height of the second wave in January, 1,820 people in the UK died from coronavirus in a single day.

In October, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch reported on the factors behind hospital-acquired Covid-19 infections in England.

It revealed the root causes lay in building design, ventilation, overcrowded wards, staff shortages, and a lack of testing and protective equipment at the onset of the pandemic.

In December, a study by doctors in north-west England uncovered “major deficiencies” in compliance with Public Health England’s guidance on good practice in preventing Covid-19 transmission in hospitals.

Failings included patients being allocated beds before negative tests were confirmed, lack of regular testing for clinical staff and not using protective screens between patients.

This month it was reported that almost half of UK hospitals inspected by the Health and Safety Executive in coronavirus spot checks were in breach of health and safety laws.

Updated: May 25, 2021 04:34 PM


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