'Deeply sad' figures show a quarter of patients who died of Covid-19 at QA Hospital caught the virus after admission

One in four patients who died from Covid-19 at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth during the first 12 months of the pandemic contracted the disease while in the hospital.

By Fiona Callingham
Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 11:17 am

Figures from Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) showed 217 patients who acquired coronavirus in hospital died within 28 days of a positive test between March 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021.

This is 25 per cent of the total number of patients who died at QA of Covid in that time, which was recorded as 864.

A health watchdog has said that there is ‘learning for everyone’ to be done after the figures were revealed.

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GV of QA hospital, Portsmouth on 15 October 2020. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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And from a national investigation by the Guardian this placed PHU as the seventh highest for the number of hospital-acquired - also known as nosocomial - Covid deaths during that time, out of the 80 trusts that responded.

A further breakdown of the data showed a total of 684 patients caught Covid in QA Hospital in that time, with 425 testing positive between eight and 14 days of admission and 259 testing positive 15 or more days after admission.

Penny Emerit, chief executive at PHU, said: ‘Keeping our patients safe is our most important priority.

‘Portsmouth and south east Hampshire experienced very high levels of community infection with Covid-19 (in reference to how Portsmouth went into a tier four lockdown in December) and, as a large organisation in an area of high prevalence, we admitted large numbers of patients with Covid.

‘We have taken a learning and transparent approach throughout the pandemic, undertaking our own research to inform, in real-time, actions to keep our patients as safe as possible, as well as implemented all national guidance around infection prevention and control.

‘We have established rapid testing for all patients who need to be admitted to hospital, introduced regular testing for asymptomatic staff and vaccinated thousands of colleagues and people in our local community.

‘We are still treating patients with Covid-19 and are keeping strict measures, such as restricted visiting, the wearing of PPE and social distancing, in place.’

As a result of the pandemic the intensive care unit at QA Hospital expanded by more than 300 per cent its usual bed base.

And during this period 2,131 members of PHU staff went off sick due to Covid - with 473 confirmed cases.

In total there were 7,436 periods of absence among hospital staff linked to coronavirus, of which around half were sick and half were just told to self-isolate.

One member of PHU staff died of Covid in that year, but it is not stated whether they caught the virus at work.

Chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth, Roger Batterbury, said: ‘Even though Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust followed and implemented all national guidance around infection prevention and control there is learning for everyone, including the government, on the health and care response to such an intense pandemic.

‘The high proportion of people who died at QA Hospital who had acquired Covid-19 during their time there, despite all the safety and infection control measures that PHU had in place, shows just how infectious the virus was to unvaccinated patients.

‘In the first 12 months of the pandemic there was only a small proportion of the population who had benefited from being offered the Covid vaccination so people were at a much higher risk of acquiring the highly infectious virus if they are in hospital. It is still very important for everyone who is able to take up the offer of the vaccine to have both doses.’

He added: ‘It is good to see that Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust is continuing to do rapid testing for all patients who need to be admitted to hospital, now have regular testing in place for asymptomatic staff and have vaccinated thousands of colleagues and people in the community in the continuing fight against Covid-19.’

According to NHS England figures, it is thought between 10 and 20 per cent of patients nationwide who died with Covid caught the disease in hospital.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan added: ’This is a deeply sad and troubling reminder of how many lives could have been saved, had the government stepped up and properly funded our local NHS during the peak of this crisis.

‘Government needs to provide our local public services with the support they need, not leave them by the wayside, which in the end may have cost lives. We cannot afford for the Covid inquiry to be delayed any longer and it must be brought forward now.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt was approached for comment.

As of September 27, there had been 944 coronavirus deaths at QA Hospital since the pandemic started.

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