Almost a fifth of England’s Covid-19 deaths are occurring at one NHS trust

Almost a fifth of the country’s Covid-19 deaths on one day occurred at five hospitals in east Kent.

In April less than 1% of the country’s coronavirus linked deaths occurred at East Kent Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

That figure has more than doubled month-on-month since, reaching 18% of the country’s total 55 deaths by July 20.

Meanwhile, Kent’s three other hospital trusts have not recorded a single coronavirus death in the last fortnight.

The Trust – which has hospitals in Dover, Canterbury, Ashford, Margate and Folkestone – has recorded 90 per cent more Covid-related deaths than any other NHS provider over the last month, analysis by HSJ shows.

The trust includes Kent & Canterbury Hospital

It had 72 Covid-related in-hospital deaths in the 30 days to 13 July, with Pennine Acute Trust reporting 38 and the George Eliot Hospital Trust in Nuneaton and University Hospitals of Leicester Trust both recording 34.

While East Kent’s trust is one of the biggest in the country and cares for 700,000 people, its rate of infection is wholly out of proportion given it patients only make up 1.3% of the English population.

It is thought in-hospital transmission has played a major part in high infection rates across east Kent, with new cases particularly high in Ashford, home to the William Harvey Hospital.

Cases are particularly high at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford
Cases are particularly high at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford

Ashford’s infection rate – the number of people catching the virus out of every 100,000 – is currently second-highest in the country, at 1,025.

It is second only to Leicester, which is the only other authority to have a rate higher than 900.

Leicester has been subjected to a local lockdown because of the high number of new cases in the city.

A spike of new cases at the end of May occurred largely in Ashford and Thanet, which host the region’s two acute hospitals.

Meanwhile, East Kent Hospitals Trust has confirmed it is receiving help from NHS England and NHS Improvement to control the spread of infection.

Buckland Hospital in Dover has also been badly hit
Buckland Hospital in Dover has also been badly hit

Canterbury and Whitstable MP Rosie Duffield branded the number of recent deaths at the trust a “cause for concern”.

“We’ve sought assurances from the trust that the measures being taken to limit the risk of cross infection are serious and robust; I will continue to liaise with them and scrutinise the measures being taken,” she said.

The trust says it is taking steps to control infection, by limiting the number of people on-site, checking temperatures and providing face masks and hand cleansing facilities.

It has also been regularly testing “significant numbers of staff”, as well as testing patients on admission, and again at three and seven days after admission.

NHS South East says it has agreed a “package of support” with the trust to strengthen its infection prevention control, including offering the expertise of a specialist nurse and additional training.

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