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A large majority of covid deaths that occurred after a patient caught the virus in hospital had covid as a cause or contributory factor, an HSJ investigation has found.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that 2,776 of 3,223 deaths from hospital-acquired covid had the virus listed on the death certificate, either as an “immediate” or contributory cause.

HSJ’s investigation appears to dispel the theory that many covid deaths died “with covid” coincidentally, while other conditions caused the deaths.

The investigation also reveals that more than one in five covid deaths were both probably caused by acquiring the virus in hospital, and caused at least in part by covid.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the data showed “hospital-acquired covid was a much bigger issue than has been recognised to date”.

Trusts which replied to HSJ’s questions said community covid prevalence and ageing estates were key factors, and that they followed robust infection control practices.

Only 32 of 120 acute trusts in England answered the FOI – those that did not reply said it would take too long, did not have access to death certificates or said they risked identifying people.

So this is Christmas?

University Hospitals of Leicester is about to disappoint its auditors again; recent September board papers have revealed the trust’s already overdue 2019-20 and 2020-21 accounts have been delayed until December.

The original deadline set for the accounts was August, and the trust’s chief financial officer Simon Lazarus made a point of telling the board it would be a real “milestone” for the trust if this deadline was met.

There is much work under way at UHL to fix its ‘unprecedented’ financial failure – as branded by the NAO – and there is an ongoing NHS E/I investigation into just how a £46m hole was found in the 2018-19 accounts.

With a new chief executive from neighbouring Sherwood Forest starting in October, perhaps 2022 will see things improve for UHL? However, as stressed by interim chair John Macdonald, the board needs assurances the organisation is fit to see through the critical financial improvements needed; a plan alone is not enough.