Published: 10:59 BST, 16 September 2020 | Updated: 14:07 BST, 16 September 2020
One hospital in Manchester accounted for a third of all Covid-19 deaths in England last week, it was revealed today amid fears the life-threatening disease is spreading between wards.
Tameside General Hospital, in Ashton-under-Lyne, suffered 18 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus fatalities in the week to September 10, treble the six fatalities the week prior.
Figures from NHS England, which records all deaths in the country’s hospitals, show a total of 52 victims were registered in the same week.
Some of the infected patients who died at the 500-bed Tameside General Hospital had been admitted for other illnesses before catching the coronavirus during their hospital stay, sources have claimed.
Health chiefs are now investigating the spate of deaths but the hospital insists it is a ‘routine review’ during the pandemic.
The NHS checked last week whether the hospital has stringent infection control, preventing the coronavirus from spreading between patients and staff. According to sources, official were satisfied.
It comes after Weston General Hospital in Somerset apologised last week after an investigation found 18 people may have died there after contracting the infection while getting treatment there in May.
Tameside General Hospital saw a surge of Covid-19 deaths in the week to September 10, double the six fatalities the week prior
The NHS reviewed whether the hospital has stringent infection control, preventing the coronavirus from spreading between patients and staff. According to sources, official were satisfied. Pictured: Staff ‘Clap for Carers’ on May 14
Tameside is one of the 10 boroughs that make up Greater Manchester, which has been hit by local Covid-related restrictions.
It is currently battling one of the highest infection rates of Covid-19 in England, with 107.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to data. This is almost four times higher than the country’s average (26).
Some 244 positive test results were reported in Tameside in just one week to September 12, up from 148 the week prior, suggesting the spread is not slowing.
However testing has been increasing in the area, according to Public Health England data – from 118 per 100,00 people in the week to August 30 to 154 per 100,000 in the week to September 6 – which may contribute to the higher case numbers.
Tameside General Hospital, which serves the surrounding area of Tameside and the town of Glossop in Derbyshire, experienced a dramatic spike in Covid-19 deaths last week, described by The Guardian as ‘sudden and unexplained’.
A lack of testing is contributing to staff absences across the NHS, putting services at risk, health leaders have warned.
NHS Providers, which represents NHS trust leaders, said hospitals in Bristol, Leeds and London had raised concerns over the weekend about the lack of tests available for NHS staff.
It warned that the recovery of normal NHS services was being put in jeopardy, while preparations for the winter pressures of Covid-19 and seasonal flu were being hampered.
NHS staff are having to self-isolate due an inability to get a test for themselves or family members, it said.
Testing has come under intense scrutiny after people across England reported they were unable to book tests, or were being offered tests hundreds of miles away.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said there was a lack of detailed operational information on the shortages, such as how long they will last.
He said: ‘The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.
‘For example, trusts need to know if they should try to create or re-establish their own testing facilities as quickly as possible.’
Mr Hopson said the health service ‘simply can’t spare members of staff waiting for tests, not being able to come into work’ and patients unable to be tested.
‘There is a significant impact and a growing impact on the NHS, and that is a problem,’ he added.
‘Nobody knows how widespread this problem is, nobody knows how long it’s going to go on for, nobody knows, for example, given that there are scarcities of tests, about who’s going to be prioritised for those tests that are available.’
It is currently unclear how many of the 18 Tameside patients died after catching Covid-19, while at hospital for another reason.
Well-placed NHS sources confirmed that at least some of the cases were the result of nosocomial infection – transmission within a hospital.
But hospital sources insisted that ‘the majority’ of the 18 people had Covid-19 before they came in, suggesting there has been an increase in admissions for the disease in Tameside as a result of rising cases.
It is understood that of the 35 new hospital admissions in Greater Manchester in the week to September 8, 10 of those were at Tameside Hospital, Manchester Evening News reported.
The source said: ‘We test all patients who are being admitted. Some of them came back as positive [after they were tested] even though they were asymptomatic.’
Another official told the paper: ‘The deaths fall into three categories: community transmission, probable hospital-acquired infection and actual hospital-acquired infection.
‘There are a few of each so far. We know that some were related to the outbreak of hospital-acquired Covid.’
All 18 are thought to have been elderly and to have had one or more underlying illnesses, and the hospital pointed out that its patients are typically of an older population. This means that if they did test positive for Covid-19, they may be noted down as a ‘Covid-19 death’, even if it was their existing condition or age that was the root cause.
But it raises fears of a hospital-acquired Covid-19 outbreak – one of the first documented in the UK.
An outbreak is defined by Public Health England as two or more ‘laboratory confirmed cases (COVID-19, influenza or other respiratory pathogen) linked to a particular setting’.
Wards are full of people vulnerable to severe Covid-19 – those with underlying health conditions, the elderly and people who have had surgery and are at risk of infection.
NHS bosses say up to a fifth of Covid-19 patients in several hospitals have contracted the disease while already being treated there for another illness.
And papers published by Sage, the scientific group advising the Government during the pandemic, show that, at the peak of the crisis, transmission within hospitals was believed to account for up to 22 per cent of hospitalised patients and up to 11 per cent of deaths.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned hospital acquired Covid-19 has caused an ‘epidemic’ of deaths during the pandemic.
The NHS last week stepped in to review the situation at Tameside General Hospital. A spokesperson told MailOnline this is a standard procedure undertaken throughout English hospitals ‘to look at patient deaths regarding Covid’. They did not clarify what it is prompted by.
The NHS tested all admitted patients and checked staff were wearing the right personal protective equipment – which varies depending on the section of the hospital they work in.
They were satisfied that hygiene practices to prevent hospital coronavirus spread were robust enough, a hospital source said, adding: ‘There were no issues.’
Public Health England will examine the medical history of each of the 18 fatalities to identify how many had Covid-19 when they arrived and how many got it after being admitted.
It comes after Weston General Hospital in Somerset issued an apology last week after an investigation found that 18 people may have died after contracted the infection while getting treatment there in May
Covid-19 cases are soaring among middle-aged people in England and have soared by upwards of 90 per cent in a fortnight as the outbreak continues to grow, official figures show.
Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20.
The most up-to-date PHE data, which was released on Friday, clearly shows cases are spiralling across every age group. People in their twenties — who aren’t as vulnerable to the disease and are likely to escape death or serious illness — are driving the spike with an infection rate of 46, which has doubled in the last three weeks.
Fears of a second wave are growing as the number of Britons being diagnosed with Covid-19 each day has topped 3,000 for the first time since May. Ministers have also been spooked by spiralling outbreaks in Spain and France and rising hospital admissions.
Hospital admissions — another way of measuring the severity of the pandemic — have doubled in England over the past ten days. More than 150 newly-infected patients required NHS treatment on Sunday, up from a rolling seven-day average of 52 on the last day of August.
But government officials believe a second wave of Covid-19 in Britain would not be nearly as bad as the first — which killed between 40 and 55,000 people — because we are better at containing and treating the virus now.
The experts believe a combination of local lockdowns, social distancing measures and medical breakthroughs would substantially reduce both the death rate and number of cases.
Dr Kailash Chand, the chair of Tameside Healthwatch, a local patient watchdog, who was a GP in the area for 20 years said he was ‘really concerned’ of the deaths at Tameside hospital.
‘I’m also concerned to hear of this outbreak at Tameside of hospital-acquired Covid, which is well-known to pose a significant risk to hospitals and their patients.
‘There needs to be an investigation and we need to learn the lessons if something has gone wrong here.’
It comes after the borough’s director of public health, Jeanelle de Gruchy, said local restrictions on socialising imposed on Greater Manchester ‘haven’t had the impact that we would have hoped’.
She told a meeting on September 10: ‘Unfortunately every day is currently bringing a rise in the rates. The latest data suggests that the rate is going up really quite quickly now.
‘We have got activity in the hospital which means that we’ve got an increase in over 65s.
‘We’re a bit ahead of everyone else I think, so the increase in community transmission is very worrying in that it’s now impacting on our care homes and in older people in the community
A statement given to MailOnline from Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS trust, which runs the hospital and serves 250,000 people, said: ‘We are working with Public Health England and other partners to fully understand the recent number of deaths, but we know that our local population is older with many pre-existing health conditions and that COVID-19 prevalence is higher in our local area.
‘We continue to prioritise infection prevention in our hospital and patients should continue to attend their appointments wearing a face covering, maintain social distancing and regularly wash their hands.’
Outbreaks of Covid-19 related to the uncontrolled spread in hospitals has been scarcely reported during the pandemic. However, hospital acquisition of the coronavirus has been a common occurrence during the pandemic despite infection control.
Last week one hospital ‘apologised unreservedly’ to the families of patients who contracted coronavirus and died while in its care in May.
Weston General Hospital temporarily stopped accepting new patients, including to its accident and emergency department on May 25, causing huge concern for residents. It reopened fully in June.
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust said it had carried out a ‘robust’ internal investigation to uncover what had gone wrong.
The trust’s medical director Dr William Oldfield said the trust had reviewed the clinical notes of everyone who was an inpatient at the hospital between May 5 and 24 who had Covid-19 either on arrival or later in their stay.
Dr Oldfield said: ‘During the investigation we identified 31 patients who have sadly passed away having contracted coronavirus infection whilst they were an inpatient in the hospital.
‘To our profound regret, in 18 of these patients the infection may have contributed to their death.
Dr Oldfield said the trust’s investigation had not identified a single cause of the outbreak but a number of factors may have contributed, including the layout of the hospital and small numbers of staff.
Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20
The most up-to-date PHE data, which was released on Friday, clearly shows cases are spiralling across every age group. People in their twenties — who aren’t as vulnerable to the disease and are likely to escape death or serious illness — are driving the spike with an infection rate of 46, which has doubled in the last three weeks
Hospital admissions — another way of measuring the severity of the pandemic — have doubled in England over the past ten days. More than 150 newly-infected patients required NHS treatment on Sunday, up from a rolling seven-day average of 52 on the last day of August
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