More than one in ten COVID-19 patients infected in hospital in first pandemic wave

Aug. 16, 2021

More than one in ten COVID-19 patients in 314 UK hospitals caught the infection in hospital during the first pandemic wave say researchers conducting the world’s largest study of severe COVID-19.

The research into hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) was led by Dr. Jonathan Read from Lancaster University with colleagues from other UK universities including the Universities of Liverpool, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Imperial College London, and published in The Lancet.

The researchers examined records of COVID-19 patients in UK hospitals who became ill before 1st August 2020. They found that at least 11.1% of COVID-19 patients in 314 UK hospitals were infected after admission. The proportion of COVID-19 patients infected in hospital also rose to between 16% and 20% in mid-May 2020, long after the peak of admissions in the first wave.

The researchers said: “We estimate between 5,699 and 11,862 patients admitted in the first wave were infected during their stay in hospital. This is, unfortunately, likely to be an underestimate, as we did not include patients who may have been infected but discharged before they could be diagnosed.” 

There were marked differences in the numbers of patients infected in hospital according to the type of care provided. Hospitals providing acute and general care had lower proportions of hospital acquired infections (9.7%) than residential community care hospitals (61.9%) and mental health hospitals (67.5%), which reflects the outbreaks seen in care-homes.

Professor Calum Semple, University of Liverpool, said: “The reasons for the variation between settings that provide the same type of care requires urgent investigation to identify and promote best infection control practice. Research has now been commission to find out what was done well and what lessons need to be learned to improve patient safety.”

Lancaster University report

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