More than 80 Chesterfield Royal Hospital patients were discharged to local care homes without being tested for Covid-19 before wholesale checks were government policy.
The figures have been revealed following a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
A further 99 patients at other Derbyshire NHS trusts were also discharged to care homes during the same time period but the trusts claim they cannot provide information on how many had or had not been tested for Covid-19 and how many tested positive for the virus.
In addition, the county and city’s largest hospital trust said it was “unable to provide” details of how many Covid patients it discharged to care homes.
Between March 19 and April 15 a total of 121 patients were discharged from Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to care homes.
Of these, just 39 were tested for Covid-19 – leaving 82 to be placed in a care home without a test.
Of the 39, nine patients tested positive.
Patients being admitted to and from Chesterfield Royal would largely stem from the High Peak and the rest of North Derbyshire including Bolsover, but would also include South Yorkshire and Tameside.
The trust stresses that: “National guidance during that period directed Covid-19 tests only for patients admitted with respiratory symptoms indicative of possible Coronavirus.”
On April 16, government policy changed to test all hospital patients being discharged to care homes.
By that point Covid outbreaks had already begun – with 34 Covid-19 related deaths in Derby and Derbyshire care homes in the week ending April 17.
The delay in symptoms surfacing in residents – often taking up to two weeks – came in the weeks that followed.
By May 15, there had been 211 Covid deaths in the care homes.
One such Derbyshire care home, Hadfield’s Oakford Manor, revealed on Tuesday, April 28 that eight residents had contracted Covid-19 and died.
Rushcliffe Care, which runs the site, confirmed that a number of those who tested positive for Covid-19 had come to the home from hospital.
One in three care homes across the country had experienced an outbreak of Covid-19 by the middle of May, with more than 1,000 homes dealing with positive cases during the peak of infections in April.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it took the “right decisions at the right time”, and that 60 per cent of all care homes had avoided outbreaks entirely.
In response to the figures, a spokesperson for the Chesterfield Royal Hospital Trust said: “As part of the overall NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we follow the national guidance and policy issued by various agencies and organisations.
“The requirement to test all patients discharged to care homes was put in place by the government on April 16 2020, and the trust promptly adopted the practice on the same day.”
Keith Venables, of campaign group Derbyshire Save Our NHS, said: “Health campaigners in Derbyshire are shocked by the high number of patients discharged from Chesterfield to care homes without Covid-19 testing.
“This is likely to lead to infections among care home staff and other patients.
“We condemn this government’s chaotic planning in relation to testing, tracing and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), and its use of often incompetent private companies to run the programmes and supply the PPE.
“We further fear its impact on the people of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.”
Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust discharged 64 patients to care homes during the same time period.
It said was “unable to determine” how many had been tested for Covid-19 and if so what the result was.
However it said followed government definitions on who to test on discharge.
Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said it discharged 35 patients to care homes during the requested time period.
It said it would take too much time to “trawl” through its data to find out who had been tested before discharge and what their results were.
A Freedom of Information request was also sent to the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust.
It said: “Due to unprecedented times the trust find themselves in currently, we are unable to provide an answer to your Freedom of Information request; pursuant of Section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act, placing undue burden/pressure upon the organisation.
“The information you are asking for needs to be collated from a division who are already under extreme pressures with increase of patients whilst supporting staff, and providing increased national reporting.
“Therefore, we would respectfully ask, that you kindly support the NHS at this time and resubmit your request for information at a later date.”
This week the trust announced it had discharged its 1,000 Covid patient.