Coronavirus (COVID-19) Image by Philip Steury AdobeStock_332281171.jpg

Covid detectives are honing in on hospital and healthcare settings as being behind the high rate of virus infection in Bedford.

A meeting on Thursday (9 July 2020) heard that testing at Bedford Hospital has been speeded up from giving results in “four-to-eight” days, to getting them in two to three hours.

Councillors at Bedford Borough Council’s local outbreak engagement board were considering the interim findings a deep dive investigation involving the council, public health officials and Bedford Hospital.

They were told that in June there had been 57 confirmed cases who had contact with Bedford Hospital. There had also been an outbreak in April at a private hospital. At Bedford Hospital they had mainly been inpatients together with newly admitted patients.

Data crunchers have honed it down to one non-covid ward where four patients who were not displaying symptoms when they went to hospital tested positive on June 14. The ward was closed to new admissions on June 15.

The interim deep dive report read that “the Trust has assured itself that the appropriate enhancements in response to this situation have been made with regards to the provision and use of PPE.”

Covid testing has also had a number of different suppliers “and this has complicated the testing process.” The hospital now tests all inpatients on admission, patients before surgery and regularly tests relevant front line staff.

The meeting also heard that there are worries about the supply of a reagent chemical needed in the testing process. Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson said urged officials to use politicians to put pressure on the authorities to make sure the chemicals get through.

He said: “If it’s not happening we can put pressure higher up. We’re happy to support the hospital.”

Previous doubts about the quality of data now seem to be cleared up, with Ian Brown, the council’s chief officer for public health saying: “We are satisfied that the overall reporting is accurate.”

But the public health team is still working to get data about which patients have been involved. Vicky Head, the council’s senior public health officer, said: “We are expecting to get patient level details, but there are information governance issues to work through before we get to that point.”

Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur) the council’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, wants home care workers who visit vulnerable people in their own homes to receive regular tests.

And Lib Dem group leader Cllr Christine McHugh (Goldington), the portfolio holder for social care resilience said: “I’ve heard from one of those people saying I cannot get tested unless they have symptoms, and they want regular testing. “It needs some attention span from Government.”

The full results of the deep dive are expected by 20 July 2020.

In the meantime representatives at the meeting reinforced previous messages about keeping social distancing to 2 metres, wearing masks on public transport and hand washing for 20 seconds with soap and water.