Sixty per cent of Covid patients in hospital 'because of' the virus
Forty per cent of those in hospital with Covid were admitted for another medical issue, according to limited estimates from two health boards.
Data published today by Public Health Scotland shows that in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Grampian, 60 per cent of acute admissions in late December and early January were “because of” Covid, with the remaining 40 per cent having a “coincidental” infection while being treated for another medical issue.
This is a drop on the most recent estimate of 68 per cent, recorded in August, and is roughly in line with figures in England.
The difference between patients in hospital because of the virus and those who have tested positive but admitted for something else has become a key metric in recent days.
The figures may put pressure on the government to ease restrictions, especially with staff absences causing major problems for the NHS, care sector and business.
The statistics also show a disparity among the age groups with disproportionately more older people admitted because of Covid.
People aged 65 and older account for 42 per cent of all admissions because of the virus, but just 26 per cent of those with it.
According to the Public Health Scotland report, on January 1 and 2, 69 patients were admitted in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde within 14 days of a positive Covid test. Of these, 37 (54 per cent) were definite admissions because of the virus, and two (3 per cent) were probable, while 30 were admitted for other reasons, with an incidental diagnosis of Covid.
In NHS Grampian between 30 December 2021 - 04 January 2022, there were 57 admissions within 14 days of a positive test.
Of these, 23 (40 per cent) were definite admissions because of Covid, and 13 (23 per cent) were probable. The remaining 21 (37 per cent) were incidental.
The report also reveals that the proportion of all people who were admitted to hospital within 14 days of a laboratory confirmed Covid-19 positive test has declined from 12 per cent in the week ending 31 January 2021, to 1 per cent in the most recent week ending 19 December 2021.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie welcomed the publication of the data but called for a “wider study” covering the whole of Scotland.
“That said, we should welcome the fact that the rate of hospitalisation appears to be lower than for the Delta variant, but it is clear that our NHS is under severe strain, not least due to staff absence, and lives are being put at risk,” she added.
“A&E departments are at breaking point, staff are working round the clock, delayed discharge is increasing and the government has warned that the situation may deteriorate even further.
“That’s why it’s vital that the SNP government matches its rhetoric with action and pulls out all the stops to protect public health and our national health service.”
Responding to the report, health secretary Humza Yousaf tweeted: "This data is of course important but either way if you are in hospital 'because' or 'with' Covid there will be [infection prevention control] measures in place, these infection control measures have an impact on our Health Service at a time we are under v significant pressure.
"Worryingly, in latest week of data 31 per cent increase in new admissions, with those aged 80+ having highest number of admissions. In the last week approx 44 per cent of hospital admissions related to patients aged 60+.
"We are not powerless, get vaccinated, test regularly & follow guidance."
In her statement to MSPs on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon warned that even with lower rates of hospitalisation, Omicron - which now makes up more than 90 per cent of all Covid cases - would still have a major impact.
The First Minister said: “The NHS is now facing increasing pressure on three fronts.
"First, from dealing with non-Covid backlogs built up over the course of the pandemic.
"Second, many NHS staff are absent and self-isolating because they have COVID, or are close contacts of people with it.
"This means the increasing pressure on the NHS is being managed by a depleted and ever more exhausted workforce.
"And third, as we keep saying, even with a lower rate of hospitalisation, the sheer volume of cases caused by the much greater transmissibility of Omicron will lead to more patients with Covid ending up in hospital.
"And, remember, even if Covid is not the primary reason for someone’s admission to hospital, the fact they have it means enhanced infection control measures are required, which further constrains NHS capacity."