News, Culture & Society

Majority of Covid inpatients in England are NOT primarily ill with virus for first time ever

The majority of Covid patients in English hospitals are not primarily being treated for the virus for the first time in the pandemic, official statistics show.

As few as a third of inpatients are mainly sick with the virus in parts of the country, with the rest mainly receiving care for a range of other conditions, such as a broken leg or heart disease.

Experts have called for the breakdown of so-called ‘incidental’ cases to be published alongside daily Covid figures to reveal the true extent of NHS pressure.

There were 13,023 Covid patients in hospital on January 25, according to the latest NHS England figures, of which only 6,256 were primarily there for the virus (48 per cent). This share has plummeted since the emergence of the super-mild Omicron variant in late November, when three-quarters of inpatients were mainly ill with the disease. 

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline the figures highlighted that the worst of the pandemic was ‘certainly’ over.

He said it was ‘absolutely’ the time to start differentiating between primary and incidental Covid patients in the daily numbers.

‘I think that data should be on the dashboard, giving more information is always better than giving less. It all fits in with the observation that Omicron is more infectious but less severe.’

Cambridge University epidemiologist Raghib Ali said: ‘Ideally that kind of breakdown would be helpful… the more transparency the better.

‘When we get the daily figure of many people are in hospital with Covid, people don’t appreciate there is a much higher proportion [of non-primary Covid]… it has impact on policy response as well.’ 

The majority of Covid patients in English hospitals are not primarily being treated for the virus for the first time in the pandemic. The share of primary Covid patients has plummeted since the emergence of the super-mild Omicron variant in late November, when three-quarters of inpatients were mainly ill with the disease

The majority of Covid patients in English hospitals are not primarily being treated for the virus for the first time in the pandemic. The share of primary Covid patients has plummeted since the emergence of the super-mild Omicron variant in late November, when three-quarters of inpatients were mainly ill with the disease

here were 13,023 Covid patients in hospital on Tuesday (January 25), according to the latest NHS England figures, of which only 6,256 were primarily there for the virus, or 48 per cent

Just three of England’s seven NHS regions have more primary Covid patients than incidentals — the  North West (57 per cent), South East (55 per cent) and the North East and Yorkshire (54 per cent).  

Little over a third of inpatients are primary Covid in London (36 per cent) and the East of England (38 per cent), while in the Midlands and the South West the proportion is 46 and 49 per cent, respectively. 

Two-thirds of NHS staff consider quitting

More than two out of three NHS workers have considered quitting in the past six months, a new study suggests.

A survey of 1,000 members of the GMB union working in the health service in England found that 70% said they had thought about finding a different job, compared to 61% in a similar poll a year ago.

Half of those cited stress or pay as reasons for wanting to leave, although around one in six blamed bullying.

In the survey, delivered as evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body this week, NHS workers also reported levels of stress that were 36% higher than the average for workers across the wider economy, said the GMB.

National officer Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: ‘Before the pandemic the NHS was on its knees – after two years of Covid it is close to collapse.

‘We have a staffing black hole of almost 100,000 and stress and poverty pay are set to drive thousands more out of the door.

‘Health workers have lost thousands of pounds from their pay packets in real terms during a decade of conservative mismanagement.

Hospital patients who test positive for Covid need to be isolated from those who do not have the virus, regardless of whether they are in hospital primarily for Covid or not.

Non-primary Covid patients include those who catch Covid while in hospital for a different illness and those who are admitted for another reason and happen to be incubating the virus as they arrive.

Dr Ali, who is a practicing clinician, warned that not all non-primary Covid hospital cases are trivial. He highlighted that catching Covid in hospital for someone with heart disease could be fatal. 

But he added it was ‘good news’ that ‘overall patients have been much less likely to need ventilation’ in the Omicron wave.

A total of 501 patients in all hospitals in England were in mechanical ventilation beds on January 25, the latest figures show, compared with 773 at the start of December.

That is around seven times lower than the peak of the second wave this time last January, before the vaccines were widely available.

Professor Hunter said the figures highlighted that the worst of the pandemic was ‘certainly’ over, although he expects smaller surges in hospital pressure for ‘at least another year or two’.

Dr Ali added that the justification for social restrictions was the weakest it has ever been now. 

He told MailOnline: ‘It is certainly premature to say it’s all over, Covid is not all done… but the big change is that we have very high levels of population immunity.

‘High cases are not leading to the same level of admissions and deaths pre-vaccines and pre-immunity, and compared to Delta that means pressure on NHS is lower than previous waves.

‘Therefore, the justification for restrictions is weak because the benefits are low and the harms [of lockdown measures] are still there.’

In more good news for the NHS, separate data showed that Covid-related absences among staff are continuing to fall.

An average of 30,375 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate each day in the week to January 23, according to data from NHS England.

More good news for NHS as staff absences continue to fall 

Covid-related absences of NHS staff at hospitals in England are continuing to fall, but levels are still higher than before Christmas, new figures show.

An average of 30,375 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate each day in the week to January 23, according to data from NHS England.

This is down 15% on the average of 35,555 the previous week, but still nearly double the 17,836 average absences in the seven days to December 19.

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘While it is positive to see more NHS staff back at work, pressure on the NHS is still intense, having seen the busiest week for ambulances taking patients to A&E since the start of December – up almost 2,000 on the week before last – all while pushing to deliver as many routine checks and procedures as possible, including vital diagnostic checks.

‘Our staff have already had what feels like a long winter, but despite everything they have had to contend with, they continue to step up as they always do; answering thousands more 111 calls last week than the seven days before, continuing to care for thousands of Covid patients and maintaining non-Covid procedures, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.’

The NHS England figures, published on Thursday, also show that the seven-day average number of Covid staff absences at English hospital trusts fell across every region of England in the week to January 23.

The biggest drop was in the North West, with the seven-day average down 25% from 7,485 in the week to January 16 to 5,654 in the seven days to Sunday January 23.

This was followed by London, down 22% from 3,810 to 2,961, then the Midlands, down 13% from 8,498 to 7,428.

London was the only region where its most recent seven-day average was lower than the week before Christmas, but it was the first area where the Omicron variant first began to surge.

This is down 15 per cent on the average of 35,555 the previous week, but still nearly double the 17,836 average absences in the seven days to December 19.

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘While it is positive to see more NHS staff back at work, pressure on the NHS is still intense, having seen the busiest week for ambulances taking patients to A&E since the start of December – up almost 2,000 on the week before last – all while pushing to deliver as many routine checks and procedures as possible, including vital diagnostic checks.

‘Our staff have already had what feels like a long winter, but despite everything they have had to contend with, they continue to step up as they always do; answering thousands more 111 calls last week than the seven days before, continuing to care for thousands of Covid patients and maintaining non-Covid procedures, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.’

The NHS England figures also show that the seven-day average number of Covid staff absences at English hospital trusts fell across every region of England in the week to January 23.

The biggest drop was in the North West, with the seven-day average down 25 per cent from 7,485 in the week to January 16 to 5,654 in the seven days to Sunday January 23.

This was followed by London, down 22 per cent from 3,810 to 2,961, then the Midlands, down 13 per cent from 8,498 to 7,428.

London was the only region where its most recent seven-day average was lower than the week before Christmas, but it was the first area where the Omicron variant first began to surge.

The figures come as the remaining Plan B measures brought in in December to fight Omicron were lifted today – with compulsory face masks in enclosed spaces and vaccine passports ditched in England.

Working from home and masks in schools were scrapped last week as the Government transitions to learning to live with the virus curb-free.

The Government also announced today that Covid restrictions in care homes are being relaxed in England from Monday. A three-visitor limit brought in last month will be lifted and self-isolation rules are also being relaxed.  

And from February 16, care home workers will be asked to take a lateral flow Covid test before every shift, rather than the current system of weekly PCR tests alongside lateral flow tests three times a week. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the success of the booster programme, coupled with falling infection rates, meant it was safe to relax the curbs. Almost nine in 10 care home residents have been triple-jabbed.

Mr Javid said: ‘I know how vital companionship is to those living in care homes and the positive difference visits make, which is why we continued to allow three named visitors and an essential care giver under Plan B measures.

‘Thanks to the progress we have made, I am delighted that care home restrictions can now be eased further allowing residents to see more of their loved ones.’ 

Residents who test positive now only need to isolate for 10 days rather than 14, but they can release on day seven if they test negative the previous two days.

A rule which meant entire care homes had to be quarantined for 28 days if two or more residents tested positive is also being halved to two weeks.  

‘Instead of empty clapping gestures and promises of pretend hospitals, this Government needs to give staff a proper pay rise.’

Health unions have called for an ‘inflation-busting’ pay rise for NHS workers this year following the row with the Government over wages in 2021.

UK’s Covid wave falls on every front with daily cases, admissions and deaths all down 

Daily coronavirus cases, deaths and hospital admissions were all down on Wednesday as the UK’s fourth wave fell on every front — and figures suggest fatalities have peaked at just 255 per day.

There were another 102,292 positive tests across the country yesterday, Government dashboard data shows, marking a 5 per cent decrease on last Wednesday.

Daily infections have been plateauing for the past week after coming down quickly from a peak of over 200,000 earlier this month, with rising cases in primary schools and people returning to work thought to be playing a role. 

Latest hospital data shows 1,399 Britons were admitted with Covid on January 22, which was 20 per cent lower than the previous week and the 11th day in a row admissions have fallen week-on-week.

There were also 346 more Covid deaths registered in the UK on Wednesday — down by around 4 per cent in a week and more than a fifth on Tuesday’s 439. 

Some scientists have pointed to the relatively high daily deaths as a reason not to loosen Plan B restrictions in England from tomorrow as planned.  

But there are often lengthy delays between someone dying from Covid and their death being officially registered, which makes interpreting daily reported deaths more complicated. 

Looking at fatalities by date of death shows that the number of people actually dying each day has been falling since around January 15 — and has never risen above 270 during the Omicron wave.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk