Only a quarter of NHS 'Covid-19 admissions' are diagnosed beforehand

Revealed: How only a QUARTER of NHS’s ‘Covid-19 admissions’ are diagnosed with the virus before they go into hospital

  • Anonymous NHS source claims most people diagnosed after admission
  • NHS England counts people who test positive days later as ‘Covid admissions’
  • As many as a quarter could catch the virus while in hospital, experts suggest

Only around a quarter of people counted in the NHS’s hospital admissions for Covid-19 are diagnosed before they get to hospital, according to a whistleblower.

A total of 1,215 people were counted as coronavirus admissions in England on November 29, according to the most recent NHS data.

And there are currently almost 13,000 people on hospital wards with Covid-19 across the country.

As many as three quarters of these patients, however, will not have found out they had coronavirus until they were already in hospital for another condition. 

The anonymous NHS source also claims that as many as one in four patients catch the virus while they’re in hospital, according to a column in The Telegraph.

This suggests that around half of patients discover they have coronavirus when they are given a test during the admission process. Tests are now mandatory for patients going into hospital to make sure that infected people don’t fly under the radar and trigger outbreaks. 

Classifying patients as ‘Covid admissions’ when nobody knew they had the virus before they were in hospital adds to questions about how accurately the NHS is recording the impact of the virus.

MailOnline analysis of data this week showed that hospitals in England are proportionately less full than usual for this time of year, despite Government warnings that the health service is on the brink of collapse.  

The majority of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital reportedly don’t get diagnosed with the virus before admission (Pictured: Medical staff wheel a person with Covid into a hospital in London during England’s first wave in April)

The Telegraph’s source said that only 25 per cent of people admitted to hospital and counted as a coronavirus admission would have known they had the virus beforehand. 

And research from Professor Carl Heneghan’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford suggested at the end of October that between 17.6 and 25 per cent of people testing positive for coronavirus in hospital had caught it there.

It said that 17.6 per cent was the average at the time in England, and that regional variations saw it rise as high as 25 per cent in the North West. 

The Telegraph’s source said: ‘Those percentages have been stable for the past three months’.

Hospital-acquired infection, also known as nosocomial infection, is when patients who were in hospital for something else catch an infection from another patient or staff member.

Infection control procedures have been toughened up during the pandemic to stop it happening and NHS medical staff are now required to wear protective equipment all the time and to regularly deep clean wards and bed bays.

But transmission of coronavirus can’t be stopped completely because many people never develop symptoms and tests are not perfect so miss some infections.

Number 10 was this week accused of running a ‘brainwashing PR campaign’ after MailOnline’s analysis of official data showed only four NHS trusts in England are busier now than they were this time last year — despite warnings the health service would be crippled by coronavirus without the revamped three-tier lockdown system.

Michael Gove sparked fury over the weekend when he claimed that every hospital in England would be ‘physically overwhelmed’ by Covid-19 without the Government’s new restrictions, as he tried to persuade MPs and the public to support the brutal curbs. 

But NHS England figures paint an entirely different picture, with thousands more hospital beds spare this year than last winter. On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7 per cent) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22, which is the most recent snapshot. This figure does not take into account make-shift capacity at mothballed Nightingales, or the thousands of beds commandeered from the private sector.

For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9 per cent, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8 in 2019 — which is the most comparable data available for last winter — when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full. 

Just four trusts — Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), University College London Hospitals FT, Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT — are busier now than they were a year ago. 

In Cambridge, 769 of 823 beds were full (93.4 per cent) on average in the week ending November 22, compared to 883 out of 956 (92.5 per cent) last winter. Calderdale and Huddersfield was at 93.3 per cent capacity last week, with 499 out of 535 beds filled, slightly higher than the 92 per cent last December, when 596 of 648 beds were in use.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is almost at full capacity, with 98.7 per cent of its 335 beds occupied. But that figure is still only marginally higher than the 96 per cent from last year. While University College London was 89.2 per cent full last December compared to 93 per cent last week. 

Dr Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham, said Downing Street was running a ‘brainwashing PR campaign’ with ‘data that doesn’t stack up’. He told MailOnline: ‘We’ve gone back to how it started in March, with [the Government] claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you’ve shown me proves that it doesn’t need protecting. It’s dealing with Covid very well indeed. 

‘What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they’ve still got some spare beds for Covid if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn’t stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.’

It comes as Laurence Fox sparked fury today after branding the NHS ‘unfit for purpose’ and saying health service staff ‘aren’t my saviours’. The actor said: ‘If you can’t deal with a 99.9 per cent survival rate virus, you aren’t fit for purpose. You don’t need protecting, my elderly relatives do.’ 

It’s true that nearly a third of English hospitals are seeing more coronavirus patients now than at the peak of the crisis in April.

But on the whole, there are still 4,000 fewer people with the disease in English hospitals compared to the darkest days in mid-April. For comparison, there were 18,970 Covid-19 patients receiving treatment on April 12 — the busiest day since the pandemic began, compared to 14,343, on average, in the week ending November 22.

If only a quarter of admissions have a confirmed diagnosis before they are sent into hospital, it would mean 911 out of the 1,215 people counted as Covid patients on November 29 didn’t know they had coronavirus.

Of the 911 people admitted without knowing they had the virus, a further 304 would get infected during their stay in hospital.

And the remaining 607 admitted on that day would find out they had the virus through routine swab tests which must be done on all inpatients.

There is also no data to show whether the admitted patients were actually sick with coronavirus, or had no symptoms but needed hospital treatment for something else. 

MailOnline has approached NHS England for comment. 

The lack of clarity over how coronavirus hospital patients are counted comes as official data appears to conflict with doom-mongering public messaging over the state of the NHS.

Tory minister Michael Gove said in an article for The Times on Saturday that every hospital in England could be in trouble if the tier system was not approved by MPs.

He said: ‘These new tiers, alongside the wider deployment of mass testing, have the capacity to prevent our NHS being overwhelmed until vaccines arrive.’

But a MailOnline analysis of the NHS’s own data suggests that hospitals are less full than they were last winter, despite warnings of unsustainable pressure on medics. 

Data show that only four NHS trusts in England are busier now than they were this time last year.  

On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7 per cent) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22, which is the most recent snapshot. 

This figure does not take into account make-shift capacity at mothballed Nightingales, or the thousands of beds commandeered from the private sector.

For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9 per cent, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8 in 2019 — which is the most comparable data available for last winter — when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full. 

Just four trusts — Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals, Calderdale and Huddersfield, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh — are busier now than they were a year ago. 

In Cambridge, 769 of 823 beds were full (93.4 per cent) on average in the week ending November 22, compared to 883 out of 956 (92.5 per cent) last winter. 

Calderdale and Huddersfield was at 93.3 per cent capacity last week, with 499 out of 535 beds filled, slightly higher than the 92 per cent last December, when 596 of 648 beds were in use.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is almost at full capacity, with 98.7 per cent of its 335 beds occupied. But that figure is still only marginally higher than the 96 per cent from last year. 

While University College London was 89.2 per cent full last December compared to 93 per cent last week. 

Dr Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham, said Downing Street was running a ‘brainwashing PR campaign’ with ‘data that doesn’t stack up’. 

He told MailOnline: ‘We’ve gone back to how it started in March, with [the Government] claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you’ve shown me proves that it doesn’t need protecting. It’s dealing with Covid very well indeed. 

‘What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they’ve still got some spare beds for Covid if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn’t stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.’ 

On the whole, there are still 4,000 fewer people with the disease in English hospitals compared to the darkest days in mid-April. 

For comparison, there were 18,970 Covid-19 patients receiving treatment on April 12 — the busiest day since the pandemic began, compared to 14,343, on average, in the week ending November 22.  

On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7 per cent) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22, which is the most recent snapshot. For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9 per cent, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8 in 2019 — which is the most comparable data available for last winter — when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full

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