Infected nurse at training event 'triggered Covid-19 outbreak'

‘Super-spreader’ nurse at hospital training event where staff didn’t wear masks or obey social distancing rules triggered Covid-19 outbreak that forced London A&E to close to ambulances, insiders claim

  • One nurse is said to have infected 16 others at a ‘disastrous’ training event
  • At least 70 staff were self-isolating when the A&E started diverting ambulances
  • Chief executive of the NHS trust sent an email reminder of social distancing

An infected nurse at a training event where staff didn’t wear masks or obey social distancing rules triggered a Covid-19 outbreak at a London hospital, insiders have claimed. 

Hillingdon Hospital in the west of the capital – in Boris Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge and Ruislip – started diverting ambulances to other hospitals on July 7.

The A&E remained open to public walk-ins but hospital bosses revealed at least 70 staff were in self-isolation and ‘a number’ of them had tested positive for Covid-19.

It has now been claimed that a training session on June 30 was the source of the outbreak, and nurses who went did not all wear masks or stay socially distanced.

One nurse who attended was infected at the time and passed on the coronavirus to 16 colleagues in a ‘super-spreading’ event, The Guardian reported. 

Special measures are still in place at the hospital and emergency ambulances are having to go to other A&Es nearby. One doctor said the event had been a ‘disastrous’ idea.

Hillingdon Hospital is one of a number of hospitals that have had to temporarily close units to the public. The trust said the claims made about staff were inaccurate and that an investigation is ongoing.

The Hillingdon Hospital (pictured) began to divert ambulances on July 7 because of confirmed coronavirus cases among its staff. The rule is still in place more than a week later

Hillingdon Hospital — which employs 3,500 staff — is not the first hospital that has been forced to shut because of a spike in Covid-19 cases. 

WESTON GENERAL HOSPITAL 

Weston General Hospital, in Somerset, closed its doors to all new patients for three weeks due to an outbreak. It only reopened in mid-June. 

At the height of its crisis, 40 per cent of staff were claimed to have had symptoms of coronavirus, such as a cough, fever or a loss of taste or smell.

ROYAL LANCASTER INFIRMARY

Royal Lancaster Infirmary shut its paediatric ward last month after dozens of staff were forced to self-isolate with coronavirus symptoms.

NORTHWICK PARK HOSPITAL

Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow was forced to declare a ‘critical incident’ in March after it ran out of intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients.

A health official who knew about an investigation into the outbreak told The Guardian: ‘Social distancing is very important in this pandemic so it’s worrying to find that not done by an NHS trust.

‘They shouldn’t be breaching any social distancing rules at the moment.

‘These [training sessions] shouldn’t been happening with current social distancing and I’m sure the trust will learn lessons from that. These situations can be avoided.’ 

A separate senior doctor at the hospital said the indoor event had been ‘disastrous’ and that it ‘became a super-spreading event’.

Insiders have claimed that nurses at the event did not all adhere to social distancing rules and didn’t all wear masks, which are now mandatory in all hospitals.

They added that social distancing broke down even more during a lunch break at the meeting, and that three staff have since needed hospital treatment for Covid-19.

One of those was the initially-infected nurse who is thought to have caught the virus from a patient who was being treated in the hospital, Guardian sources said.

And just days after the training session took place, the chief executive of the hospital Sarah Tedford, reportedly emailed staff reminding them about the importance of social distancing and wearing masks. 

The hospital said the claims about the super-spreading event were inaccurate and said in a statement: ‘There is an ongoing investigation into the outbreak of Covid-19 at Hillingdon hospital. 

The Hillingdon Hospital is located in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip

KEY WORKERS PLAGUED BY POTHOLE ROADS 

Pothole-ridden roads caused hundreds of key workers’ vehicles to break down during the lockdown, figures show.

RAC patrols were called out to 1,766 pothole-related incidents between April and June, even though traffic levels had dropped by 60 per cent. Those still on the roads were mainly key workers.

The motoring group said it was surprised by the high number of accidents at a time when the network was the quietest it has been since the mid-1950s.

Potholes accounted for 1 per cent of all breakdown call-outs from April to June, or around 20 incidents a day. This is the same proportion as were attended over the same period in 2019.

Many local authorities had promised to use the downtime to repair some of the crumbling roads.

The RAC said the evidence of the high number of pothole incidents proves that the state of the roads ‘has not significantly improved’.

Due to lockdown, the number of pothole-related accidents from the last three months is down on the first quarter of the year when patrols rescued 3,426 drivers who suffered pothole damage, such as broken shock absorbers.

The figures will put pressure on the Government which has pledged to spend £2.5billion on repairing 50million potholes over the next five years.

‘Our priority is to maintain safe and high quality care, and the trust is taking appropriate actions to reduce transmission in line with Public Health England guidance.’ 

On July 7 bosses at the Hillingdon Hospital stopped accepting ambulance patients at the A&E department and had them diverted to other hospitals in the city instead.

The rule is still in place but non-999 patients who take themselves to the emergency department – who are generally not at risk of dying – are still able to get treated.

A statement from the trust at the time said: ‘As of Tuesday, July 7, 70 members of staff were isolating, a number of whom have tested positive for Covid-19.

‘As a result, the trust has taken the precautionary decision to close Hillingdon Hospital to emergency ambulances and emergency admissions.’

The statement added: ‘The trust is managing the outbreak in line with Public Health England guidance.’

The trust told MailOnline that any impact on patient care ‘has been kept to an absolute minimum and there is no disruption to the care of our current patients’. 

It is currently unclear whether any patients were infected or how long it will be shut to new emergency admissions for.

10 Downing Street said last week that Boris Johnson, MP for the area, had contacted the hospital.

His official spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister was in touch with the hospital [on Tuesday] in his capacity as the local MP to check that the hospital had the support which it needs.’

There is an investigation into the incident ongoing by bosses at the hospital trust and Public Health England. 

Hillingdon Hospital — which employs 3,500 staff — also serves residents in Ealing, Harrow, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

It is not the first hospital that has been forced to shut because of a spike in Covid-19 cases. 

Weston General Hospital, in Somerset, closed its doors to all new patients for three weeks due to an outbreak. It only reopened in mid-June. 

At the height of its crisis, 40 per cent of staff were claimed to have had symptoms of coronavirus, such as a cough, fever or a loss of taste or smell.

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