Legionella found in hospital water supply

A Liverpool hospital has been fined nearly £48,000 following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into unsafe levels of legionella in the water supply.

The HSE issued a strong health warning after high levels of the legionella bacteria were found at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. The investigation found unsafe levels of legionella in the water supply system for the showers, baths and sinks at the hospital.

The investigation was not able to conclude whether two patients who contracted legionnaires’ disease before their deaths in early 2007 were infected at the hospital.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that the NHS Trust had stopped testing the water supply for legionella, despite high levels of the bacteria being found in the Audrey Leigh wing in May 2002.

HSE inspector Kevin Jones said: "It is almost beyond comprehension that Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospitals NHS Trust became so complacent about legionella in the water supply system. We were astonished to discover that the NHS Trust’s management team took a decision to stop testing for the bacteria. The hospital’s water supply system was clearly at risk from legionella and so regular tests should have been carried out.”

HSE criticised the NHS Trust for failing to put suitable control measures in place, and senior management for failing to take responsibility for overseeing the control of the bacteria.