MORE than 600 patients caught Covid while being cared for by the health trust that runs the Royal Oldham Hospital.

Analysis of NHS England data shows that, between August 1 and March 21, 681 people were thought to have been infected with Covid-19 at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, while being treated in hospital for other conditions.

The trust, which runs The Royal Oldham, Fairfield and Rochdale Infirmary as part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group cared for 3,445 Covid-19 patients between August 1 and March 21 – meaning 20 per cent are thought to have contracted the disease in hospital.

This is above the 19 per cent average for all NHS acute trusts across the North West.

The highest number of such transmissions was recorded in January alone, when 174 people were believed to have been infected in hospital.

When contacted the trust said their own data from the start of the pandemic showed its “cumulative total of Covid-19 related infections” was calculated at 702 out of 4758 admissions, a total of 14.75 per cent.

A spokesperson for the Trust said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have put rigorous infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in place including bio-security safety (mandatory mask wearing, strict hand hygiene protocol and social distancing) on all our sites.

“We have introduced a variety of IPC measures including twice weekly staff screening, and the screening of all admissions to our hospitals, ensuring separate pathways for patients until they have undergone this rigorous screening regime.”

Rapid testing technology, to identify those who may be asymptomatically positive, and strict visiting policies have also been introduced, as well as an increase in the provision of patient isolation facilities and the use of specialist ventilation solutions.

Across England, 40,670 people are thought to have been infected with Covid-19 in hospital since August last year – 15 per cent of all inpatients with the disease.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the NHS was already overstretched before the pandemic and warned bed capacity and staffing must be increased to control the spread of the virus in hospitals.

Rob Harwood, chairman of the BMA consultants committee, said: "The NHS went into the current pandemic underfunded, understaffed and overstretched, and the knock-on effects – such as limited bed capacity – has unfortunately meant that controlling the spread of Covid-19 within hospitals has been more difficult than necessary.”

An NHS spokesman said: "The ONS and other data conclusively demonstrate that the root cause of rising infection rates in hospitals is rising rates in the community.

"Since asymptomatic tests kits were made available for the first time by the Government’s Test and Trace programme in November, millions of staff have been tested helping to keep infections as low as possible, and all staff have been asked to rigorously follow Public Health England’s infection control guidance with hospital infection rates currently standing at around 4.2 per cent."