AN NHS trust is to warn patients about the risk of catching Covid in hospital after it said it is becoming harder to separate people with coronavirus from those without.

Papers from a January 7 meeting of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust’s safety and quality committee – and submitted to the trust board ahead of its meeting on Thursday – suggested action needed to be taken to openly warn patients of the risks.

“It is becoming much more difficult to separate the Covid + (positive) and Covid – (negative) patients,” the document said.

“In an increasing number of instances, patients are admitted to cold areas for non-Covid treatment and without symptoms but then test positive.

“These patients then need to be moved to hot areas and any contacts (including patients from the same bay) isolated.

“At some point a tipping point could be reached where it may be impossible to retain hot and cold areas. Duty of Candour leaflets are going to be distributed to patients alerting them of the risk of infection.”

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The document also highlights concerns about staffing levels, particularly in nursing.

It said the trust had more than 230 patients with Covid-19 on its wards as of January 7, up from around 80 before Christmas.

The document says patients are only being admitted to the trust “if the risk of not doing so outweighs the risk of contracting Covid-19 in hospital”.

Furthermore, the trust is working with other hospitals regarding the transfer of patients, with “one patient taken as far as Torbay (Devon), where the nearest ITU bed was available that day”.

Michael Wilson, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said in a statement: “We have seen unprecedented numbers of patients with Covid being admitted and requiring critical care.

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“Staff continue to pull together to provide safe care and it remains important to inform patients about the risk of infection, the things we are doing to prevent spread and how they can help while in hospital.”

Data from Public Health England (PHE) for the week ending January 17 shows there were 98 suspected outbreaks in hospitals reported to PHE, where 84 had at least one linked case that tested positive for coronavirus.

The Surrey and Sussex document said early data does not seem to indicate any significant differences between now and the first wave in terms of death rates.

But it pointed to “strong anecdotal evidence” that indicates “patients are more likely to be younger with comorbidities vs the first wave”.