Hillingdon hospital coronavirus outbreak began at staff event attended by infected nurse

A coronavirus outbreak among Hillingdon hospital staff began after an infected nurse unwittingly attended a presentation and passed the virus on to 16 others, an inquiry has found.

The hospital, located in Boris Johnson’s constituency, closed to emergency admissions on July 3 after the outbreak resulted in 70 staff needing to self-isolate.

Now, an inquiry has revealed one training event held on June 30 was the source of the outbreak which one doctor described as a “super-spreading event”, according to The Guardian.

During the session, at the north-west London hospital, mask wearing or remaining two metres apart was not strictly followed, and social distancing was largely unobserved during the lunch break, hospital sources said.

The nurse in question is believed to have contracted Covid-19 from a patient being treated in the hospital who had recently returned from overseas. 

She allegedly became increasingly ill during the training session and was eventually taken to the hospital’s A&E department, but there is no indication she acted inappropriately.

The 16 others who became infected worked alongside the nurse or in the hospital’s A&E, and three nurses who attended the event, held in a lecture theatre in Hillingdon’s education centre, were hospitalised as a result of their infection.

One senior doctor told The Guardian: “The sanctioning of such a large gathering of health care workers indoors seems extremely unwise and out of kilter with how the hospital has handled meetings of all kinds during Covid.

“Most meetings have been avoided since late March or moved online or kept to a minimal number of people with appropriate spacing.”

The inquiry is being carried out by senior Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust executives in collaboration with officials from Public Health England (PHE), Hillingdon council’s public health team and NHS England. 

One health official who is familiar with the inquiry’s findings said: “Social distancing is very important in this pandemic, so it’s worrying to find that not done by an NHS trust…

“These [training sessions] shouldn’t be happening with current social distancing and I’m sure the trust will learn lessons from that. These situations can be avoided.”

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