Calls for urgent action to be taken over Covid infection rates for inpatients at East Kent Hospitals have been made following claims that the proportion of patients confirmed as infected with covid-19 after admission to East Kent hospitals is running at twice the national rate.
The Health Service Journal (HSJ) says it has seen data showing 12 per cent of hospital covid cases at East Kent were diagnosed 15 or more days after admission, compared to 6 per cent across all other English acute trusts.
The HSJ report says East Kent now has one in eight of all the hospital deaths from Covid-19 in England. It adds that “the data shows potential signs of consistent improvement from about July 20, with the total number of new hospital cases, and the share which are contracted in hospital, both declining.”
However, the Trust has not confirmed those figures and says data does not show where a patient would have contracted the virus. The Trust added that it has had “a high rate of patient testing throughout the pandemic, including frequently testing all patients who are not showing any symptoms of covid-19.” It says a high rate of patient testing would be reflected in any testing data.
In the seven days from June 29-July 5 the Trust diagnosed 49 inpatients with Covid. These were positive tests after admission and do not include patients who were diagnosed positive prior to admission to hospital – although they may have been tested before admission with results only being available once they were on a ward. It also includes results for patients who were discharged, or died, before the diagnosis was made.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust recorded two inpatient positive tests in the same period and Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust recorded 17 positive inpatient tests.
However, the tests do not show where or when a patient would have first become infected with the virus. The East Kent Trust is also one of largest in England, with five hospitals and community clinics serving a local population of around 695,000 people.
Ramsgate County Councillor Karen Constantine has written to Wilf Williams, the Accountable Officer for Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, calling for urgent action to “stop the culture of denial, provide reassure for the public and to bring the infection rate down.”
She said: “We need urgent change. Clearly infection control isn’t working adequately and people are contracting Covid-19 whilst in hospital. The death rate is increasing. This is now a national scandal. If the accountable officer cannot bring this situation under control he should resign. Likewise the hospital directors.“
Health campaign group Save Our NHS in Kent has called a public meeting – via zoom – today to discuss the “disproportionate numbers of deaths in the East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT).”
Dr Coral Jones of Save Our NHS In Kent said: “We must do something about it as matter of urgency. If people are actually catching the virus by going into our hospitals, then this is alarming.
“Death rates in the hospitals of East Kent have actually been going up while in the rest of the country hospitals have seen death rates falling rapidly. Infection rates in the community outside the hospitals are not especially high.”
Dr Jones stresses she doesn’t believe doctors and nurses in the trust are to blame but feels they are being let down by management.
SONIK’s emergency online public meeting will be held via Zoom at 6pm on Tuesday 4 August. Speakers will include Andrew Scott-Clark, Director of Public Health for Kent County Council. All are welcome to take part.
Join the meeting at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82219485874
Meeting ID: 822 1948 5874
No password necessary
Infection prevention measures taken
A spokesman for East Kent Hospitals said: “Throughout the pandemic we have followed national guidelines on caring for people with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.”
“The Trust has had a high rate of patient testing throughout the pandemic, including frequently testing all patients who are not showing any symptoms of covid-19.
“We have already taken a number of measures to strengthen infection control including carrying out risk assessments in all areas of the hospital with adjustments made to support social distancing and reduce the risk of transmission.
“We are limiting the number of people on site, taking temperature checks before people enter the hospitals, providing face masks for those entering and providing hand cleansing facilities.
“We have daily infection prevention and control staff briefings on our wards and matrons carry out daily observation ward rounds to ensure all members of staff observe the principles of best practice. We continue to follow all national guidelines in our hospitals to help keep people safe.”
A test of all 9,000 Trust staff over a five day period last month revealed a relatively low 15 positive tests.
Covid related deaths
There have 447 deaths recorded in East Kent Hospitals for patients who had tested positive for Covid. However, in line with practice across the country, all patients who die in hospital and who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the previous 28 days have this noted on their death certificate. This means they are counted as a Covid-19 death even if the cause of death was another condition.
The initial increase in patients presenting for treatment in East Kent Hospitals began later than in England as a whole. The Trust says this means the reduction in hospital activity – and the reduction in Covid-19 deaths – appears to be happening later here than in most other NHS Trusts.
In total East Kent has accounted for 1.5 per cent of the overall Covid-19 deaths in the country, which the Trust says is in the expected range when risk adjusted for age, sex, comorbidities and deprivation.
Thanet has recorded 158 Covid-related deaths up to July 24. There have been 909 positive covid cases up until yesterday (August 3). However, cases recorded have dropped significantly (in June) compared to the peak in April.
Positive cases increase but death rate falls
The Office for National Statistics says there is evidence of a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) in recent weeks.
The number of people newly infected with the virus has also increased, with latest data showing an estimated 4,200 new cases of COVID-19 per day in England.
However, following the peak recorded in April, in June there was a large decrease in the proportion of deaths involving the coronavirus across all English regions and Wales
The ONS says: “In June, we continued to see a fall in the amount of deaths involving COVID-19. Mortality rates were down from the levels seen in May with the rate of deaths due to COVID-19 being 53.0 and 47.0 per 100,000 persons in England and Wales respectively; these are the lowest rates since March.”