Most Patients in English Hospitals With COVID-19 Admitted for Other Illnesses

Most Patients in English Hospitals With COVID-19 Admitted for Other Illnesses
Paramedics work inside an ambulance parked outside the Royal London Hospital in east London on Jan. 7, 2022. (Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)
Alexander Zhang

More than half of all patients in English hospitals with COVID-19 are being treated primarily for something else, new figures show.

The latest statistics show a growing proportion of patients who are in hospital “with” COVID-19 rather than “for” COVID-19.

Of the 13,023 hospitalised patients in England reported as having the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus on Jan. 25, 52 percent (6,767) were not being treated principally for COVID-19.

This is the highest proportion since these figures were first published in June 2021, and is up from 26 percent at the start of December 2021.

A total of 501 patients in all hospitals in England were in mechanical ventilation beds on Jan. 25, compared with 773 at the start of December—and well below the 3,736 recorded at the peak of the second wave on Jan. 24, 2021.

All hospital patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 need to be treated separately from those who do not have the virus, regardless of whether they are in hospital primarily for COVID or not.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted last week that daily COVID-19 figures could be skewed by the rise of the highly contagious Omicron variant, because “many” people were being included in the daily death count who “would not have necessarily died of COVID.”

He said on Jan. 19 that an estimated 40 percent of the people with COVID-19 in hospital are “incidental” cases, meaning they were admitted to hospital “not because they’ve got COVID, but they happen to have COVID.”

“That’s almost double the percentage that we saw with Delta, and that’s important because the deaths that are being reported of people who were COVID-positive within 28 days of passing away, many of those people would not have necessarily died of COVID,” said Javid.

Last month, Chris Hopson, CEO at NHS Providers, a membership organisation for NHS (National Health Service) trusts in England, warned against misinterpreting the data.

He said that official data are prone to be overinterpreted as it did not distinguish between people who are hospitalised for COVID-19-related illnesses and those who receive medical care for other reasons but then test positive.

Even before the Omicron variant was detected in November 2021, British experts called the reliability of COVID-19 data into question.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said in October that raw data on COVID-19 deaths are “quite misleading.”

When transmission is high, lots of people who test positive for COVID-19 will have actually died from other causes, he told the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons.

Owen Evans and PA Media contributed to this report.