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Care home at centre of Legionnaire's disease death

Care home at centre of Legionnaire's disease death

20 June 2019

A recent incident in a UK care facility led to a 56 year old man contracting Legionella Pneumonia, a recognised complication arising from exposure to the Legionella bacteria. The individual unfortunately passed away around two weeks after he was admitted to hospital.

An inquest into the individual's death was held in March, with a jury concluding that he died as a result of Legionnaires’ bacteria contracted at the care home. An expert deduced that the hot and cold water pipes in the facility were running closely together, and that this had created ideal conditions for legionella bacteria to gather.

Following the inquest jury’s conclusion, Nicholas Rheinberg, Assistant Coroner, contacted the Care Quality Commission (CQC), asking it to review the training given to inspectors regarding water safety.

Mr Rheinberg also wrote to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) calling on it to review how care homes were designed to help reduce the risk of Legionella and the spread of the bacteria in care homes.

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What is Legionella?

Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth.

Legionella bacteria presents a real risk for any facility, regardless of industry sector. Recent years have seen outbreaks in hospitals, manufacturing facilities, leisure establishments, care homes and garden centres. So it’s important that the right steps and measures are put in place to protect both staff and visitors from the dangers that surround exposure to Legionella. People contract  Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water, suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. This is an extremely serious disease and can, in severe cases, ultimately result in death.

Despite the requirement for companies to be compliant with the latest regulations outlined in the ACoPL8 (The HSE Code of Practice for Legionnaires Disease), legionella is still an ongoing problem.

Click here to view the full range of Legionella training available at our UK-wide centres.

Download DTL's whitepaper on controlling legionella

Top tips for Legionella prevention

  1. It is recommended that air conditioning systems be professionally checked, cleaned and serviced at least once a year.
  2. Generally, best practice is to have cooling systems serviced in early spring and heating systems looked at near the start of autumn. This will mean that all units are checked and serviced before the seasons when they are likely to be used a lot, and that contaminants and disease-causing agents such as mould and micro-organisms such as Legionella, do not get the chance to build up to dangerous levels before being cleaned out.
  3. Do not let air conditioning systems sit entirely idle for long periods of time. Water should be kept flowing rather than allowed to sit because stagnant water gives Legionella and other bacteria one of the conditions they need to multiply.
  4. It is recommended that water is kept at a temperature in which Legionella and similar organisms do not thrive well. Typically, this means water should either be heated above 60C, or cooled to a temperature of less than 20C.
  5. Make sure central air conditioners are professionally inspected by qualified persons and adjusted.
  6. Once a month during the season, clean or replace filter, evaporator and condenser coils.
  7. Ensure water cannot stagnate anywhere in the system by keeping pipe lengths as short as possible or removing redundant pipework.
  8. Keep the system and the water in it clean.
  9. Treat water to control the growth of Legionella and other micro-organisms.
  10. Water samples should be analysed for Legionella periodically to check that the control regime is working adequately to prevent the proliferation of Legionella bacteria.

Click here to view the full range of Legionella training available at our UK-wide centres

Download DTL's whitepaper on controlling legionella

Responsibilities and Duty of Care

Care facilities provide a safe place for vulnerable people. It is the responsibility of building and facilities managers to ensure that there are up-to-date, comprehensive water hygiene protocols in place, and that all staff and residents are made aware of these and given training where necessary.

Develop Training provide a wide variety of courses in the control and prevention of Legionella, accredited by City and Guilds. These courses are ideal for Building Managers, Facilities Managers, Technical and Engineering staff and Legionella Risk Assessors.

Click here to view the full range of Legionella training available at our UK-wide centres

Download DTL's whitepaper on controlling legionella

Alternatively, contact our friendly Customer Service Team on 0800 876 6708 or

Visit the HSE's website to find out more about Legionella, Legionnaires' Disease, the Level 8 Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and your responsibilities and duty of care as an employer:

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