Chris Hopson of NHS Providers responding to Telegraph's story that more than 11,000 caught Covid and died after being admitted to hospital
An NHS chief has admitted "we've known from the beginning" that Covid infections in hospitals are a "problem" after The Telegraph revealed more than 11,000 people have caught the disease and died after being admitted to NHS hospitals for other ailments. Thousands of patients who went to hospital to be treated for other illnesses “probably” or “definitely” caught coronavirus during their stay and subsequently died, hospital data show.
Addressing the figures, which MPs condemned as a scandal, Chris Hopson, NHS Providers' chief executive, conceded hospitals had posed a "very significant risk" from the start of the pandemic.
He added that the stark numbers adds to the "logic" of introducing compulsory vaccinations for frontline NHS workers. Mr Hopson told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "I have seen the story [Daily Telegraph front page] and we know that the NHS like every other health system in the world has encountered this problem of nosocomial infection - in other words, infection in health care settings. "And that's precisely why we've been working so hard over the last 18 months to ensure that infection risk is minimised. "And that's why as I said, we can see the logic of introducing mandatory vaccination if it's done in a careful and sensible way.
"I do recognise NHS England's view that actually it's very difficult to put a precise number but we've known right from the beginning that this is a problem and that's why trust have been working so hard to try and minimise the levels of nosocomial infection because they know it's a very significant risk."
NHS England said that the analysis was "flawed" because it contained "probable" cases, meaning it "will contain cases of people who did not catch Covid in hospital". It is understood that an announcement on mandatory vaccines for NHS staff was imminent.
And Mr Hopson said that if it is approached in the right way it could actually result in a rise in take-up of jabs.
The chief executive of NHS Providers told the Today programme "peer to peer" conversations are important in groups where there is lower take-up.
He said: "If you look at other nations that have done this, there is no doubt that if you do it carefully, at the point when you announce the fact that you are going to have mandatory vaccinations in the sector, it does provide quite a useful opportunity to then have those kind of further conversations. So if we get it right, actually, it could be quite a useful spur in some senses to drive the take-up up, but the bit that we just need to be careful of, as I said, is avoiding scapegoating people."
Mr Hopson warned that the NHS and the social care sector losing "significant numbers of staff" would be a "real problem".
He said: "The problem for both social care and the NHS is we run these systems incredibly hot on very, very fine margins. Both of us have got around 90 to 100,000 vacancies.
"We are completely reliant on our staff to currently provide you know, work extra shifts in order to do the work that needs to be done. So, you know, losing significant numbers of staff, particularly given the pressure that both of the systems are under at the moment, is a real, real problem. And that's why we're very clear with the Government they need to help us manage this risk."