ONE in eight coronavirus patients at Mid and South Essex Trust have contracted the virus in hospital since lockdown ended last year, figures suggest.

The British Medical Association said understaffing and underfunding nationally, coupled with poor infrastructure across many hospitals, have made it harder to control the infection.

Analysis of NHS England data shows there were 2,481 Covid-19 admissions at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust between July 19 2021 and January 16 – the latest date for which data is available.

Of those, 2,181 were infections that occurred in the community, meaning 300 people may have caught Covid while being treated for other conditions over the period – 12% of patients.

In the week to January 16, 185 new Covid patients were being cared for across Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals, with 36 thought to have contracted the virus in hospital.

Across England, 17,900 patients may have caught coronavirus in hospital since July – 12% of those treated for the virus during this time.

Around 2,700 of these infections are believed to have happened in the week to January 16 – 22% of newly admitted Covid patients.

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Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, said: “The NHS has limited bed capacity and many hospitals are old, are poorly ventilated and have very few single-patient rooms in which to effectively isolate patients.

“Unfortunately, that has meant that controlling the spread of Covid-19 within hospitals has been difficult, particularly as restrictions are being eased for the public even though infection rates remain extremely high."

Dr Sharma added the BMA had also "consistently" raised concerns around poor PPE and was calling for the Government's upcoming public inquiry into the pandemic to be transparent.

He said: “No one should come into hospital with one condition, only to be made incredibly ill with, or even die from, a dangerous infectious disease.

"Families – including those of our own colleagues who died fighting this virus on the frontline – deserve answers."

But NHS England said rising infection rates in hospital correspond to increasing rates in the community.

A spokesman said: "Data conclusively demonstrates that the root cause of rising infection rates in hospitals is rising rates in the community and analysis has shown that Covid-19 hospital infection rates account for less than 1% of all cases since the pandemic began.

"Cases have reduced significantly since the NHS vaccination rollout."

The spokesman added that reports show outbreaks in hospitals are less common than in other settings.