One in six coronavirus patients at Bedfordshire Hospitals 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 1,857 Covid-19 admissions at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust between July 19, 2021 and January 16 – the latest date for which data is available.
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Of those, 1,568 were infections that occurred in the community, meaning 289 people may have caught Covid while being treated for other conditions over the period – 16 per cent of patients.
In the week to January 16, 137 new Covid patients were being cared for at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust, with 29 thought to have contracted the virus in hospital.
There is no further breakdown between both hospitals - Bedford and Luton & Dunstable.
Across England, 17,900 patients may have caught coronavirus in hospital since July – 12 per cent 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 per cent of newly admitted Covid patients.
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 per cent 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.