Report lifts lid on Covid outbreaks at Shropshire hospitals

Just over 500 staff and more than 250 patients tested positive for Covid-19 in outbreaks at Shropshire’s two main hospitals last year, a report says.

Details of the Covid outbreaks at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital are included in the report
Details of the Covid outbreaks at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital are included in the report

Trust Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Director Hayley Flavell says all 25 outbreaks at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) and the 24 seen at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) were analysed, and lessons were shared with staff.

She says the coronavirus pandemic was “the most significant infection prevention and control issue” in 2020-21, and adds that no flu outbreaks took place at the hospitals despite fewer staff getting their annual vaccination than the previous year.

Her annual IPC report will be discussed by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust board when it meets remotely on Thursday, June 10.

“The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic introduced a new and very significant challenge to all acute services and the NHS as a whole in the UK and to health services internationally,” Mrs Flavell writes.

“The IPC team attended daily meetings on control of Covid-19, including placement of patients, advice in ventilation, personal protective equipment for different procedures, management of clusters of patients, outbreaks and additional methods of reducing transmission.”

Public Health England defines an “outbreak” as an occasion when two or more confirmed or suspected cases can be associated with a specific location.

Statistics in Mrs Flavell’s report say 314 patients and 175 staff cases were identified as part of outbreaks at the RSH, with the largest involving 37 patients and 27 staff in December on a ward that specialises in urology and vascular surgery.

The largest PRH outbreak involved 50 patients and five staff members on a respiratory ward in the same month.

“We owe a huge debt of thanks to the microbiology department who worked long hours and overcame many obstacles to rapidly introduce and accelerate testing for Covid-19,” Mrs Flavell continues.

“The Covid-19 vaccination programme commenced in December 2020.

“All 6,626 front-line staff in the trust were offered a Covid-19 vaccination. By the end of March 2021, 82 per cent had received at least one dose.”

Mrs Flavell’s report also summarises outbreaks of other diseases.

“The UK saw an extremely low number of influenza cases during this winter,” she writes.

“SaTH has no outbreaks caused by influenza.”

The equivalent report last year said “the UK saw a significant number of influenza cases” during winter 2019-20.

It added: “SaTH has several wards affected, which was in line with other acute hospitals in the region. However, with good control measures, these were mainly restricted to bay closures. SaTH has no whole-ward closures.”

Mrs Flavell’s 2020-21 report said that year’s flu vaccine campaign reached 73.5 per cent of frontline healthcare workers, with 4,225 jabs given, placing SaTH near the middle of the league table nationally. She says the programme was prioritised “in view of the potential impact of the pandemic and the expected workload of the Covid-19 vaccination programme”.

The 2019-20 report said 83 per cent of frontline workers received flu vaccinations that winter.

Her report adds that, in 2020-21, 16 cases of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus and 9 cases of clostridium difficile were identified across four outbreaks of each, while six pseudomonas infection were found in a single outbreak at the PRH’s intensive care unit in February 2021.

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