More than 40,600 people have possibly been infected with the deadly COVID-19 while being treated in the hospital for other reasons in England. According to a research by the
Guardian Newspaper, about 15% of COVID-19 patients contracted
the disease while being treated for a different illness between August 1, 2020 and March 21 2021.
These heartbreaking figures have raised concerns about the inability of the NHS to protect its patients. Experts believe that the rise in inpatient infections is due to a lack of beds and other factors relating to the condition of hospitals, including ventilation and sanitation. Some of these infections, according to a senior official at NHS England, were also caused by asymptomatic staff in hospitals.
A lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) coupled with insufficient testing for medical professionals means that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals have inadvertently passed the virus on to patients. Lancashire teaching hospitals trust and Hull University teaching hospitals trust recorded the joint highest figures (28%) of patients who contracted the virus while under hospital care, with the former having 486 while the latter had 626. However, hospital size will give a more accurate reflection of the hospital-acquired infection rate as well as efforts to stop the transmission.
The trusts with the next highest hospital-acquired infection rates were Stockport (386 cases at 28%), Brighton (367 cases at 27%) and James Paget in Norfolk (319 cases at 27%). These figures mean that 10 of the 127 acute trusts in England had one in four patients infected; across the whole of England, one in seven patients, representing 15% of all hospital inpatients between August 1, 2020 and March 21, 2021 contracted the virus. This data indicates that a total of 40,670 inpatients possibly contracted the deadly coronavirus while under hospital care for other reasons during that time.
Making Medical Negligence Claims in Relation to COVID-19
There is a still a great deal we are yet to know about COVID-19, but this does not give hospitals the license to be careless and expose patients to danger during this pandemic. When a hospital and its medical personnel fails to protect patient health in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and you have suffered harm as a result, you may be able to sue the NHS.
We appreciate the efforts of our tireless healthcare workers at this difficult time. However, until the proposed mass vaccination is complete, hospitals and medical professionals must uphold their duty of care towards their patients. Under this context, what can be proven when making a medical negligence UK claim for patients who contracted COVID-19 while under hospital care?
- Duty of Care
- Breach of Duty
- Whether the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the injury.
- Whether the defendant’s behaviour exposed the injured person to an increased risk of harm.
- Whether the defendant’s action was necessary in the chain of causation.
A duty of care refers to a legal obligation on the part of a hospital or medical professional to adhere to a standard of reasonable care while providing treatment to a patient, ensuring such patient is protected from further illness or injury.
If the hospital of medical professional fails to exercise reasonable level of care expected of them and this exposes a patient to harm, this may be deemed a breach of duty.
The courts will consider causation – to determine whether there is a direct link between the actions of the hospital or medical professional and the injury or death to the patient.
The conventional approach to determine causation is the “but for” test that the harm would not have happened but for the negligent treatment provided by the hospital or medical professional. However, the court will consider three factors before establishing causation:
Proof of harm due to medical negligence is also key, and this can come in different forms, including medical records, financial records, correspondences and more. In this case, the nature and severity of the damage caused will determine the compensation award.
This means that the patient has suffered injury while under the care of the hospital or medical professional.
When a person is admitted into a hospital, it is the duty of the hospital to closely monitor the patient to ensure they receive the quality of care they need; this also means ensuring adequate measures are in place to protect the patient from contracting COVID-19. The importance of this was highlighted by a spokeswoman for Hull trust when she said:
“We are taking all possible steps to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections, given the constraints placed upon us by our ageing estate, including the removal of beds to reduce the risk of transmission, the isolation of patients with the virus and a regular testing regime.”
Britain is the first country to pass the 100,000 mark for COVID-19 related deaths. This grim figure only includes deaths of those who passed away within 28 days of their first positive test. Without a doubt, while the UK joins other countries in the race for mass vaccination of its citizens against coronavirus, action must be taken to keep the number of infections low, especially in hospitals.
Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom. On Thursday March 25, Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, recommended that the national threat level of COVID-19 be stepped down from four to three due to the recent significant drop in the number of inpatient infections in hospitals. As at January 18 this year, hospital-acquired COVID-19 infections stood at 39,248; this figure currently stands at 5,407 – a massive improvement from what used to be.
In these uncertain times, even as we do our utmost to protect ourselves from the ravaging virus, we appreciate the efforts of our healthcare workers and want to continue to trust in them. However, if you have contracted coronavirus and you believe this may have been due to doctor negligence or hospital negligence, our medical negligence solicitors can advice you on the best course of action to protect your health and interests, and ensure you get the justice you deserve.