Liverpool trust fined £48k for legionella ‘complacency’

The Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Trust was ordered to pay nearly £48,000 following an HSE investigation at the NHS Trust’s hospital on Thomas Drive, Liverpool.

The investigation found unsafe levels of legionella in the water supply system for the showers, baths and sinks at the hospital. But it was not able to conclude whether two patients, who both contracted legionnaires’ disease before their deaths in early 2007, were infected at the hospital or elsewhere.

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 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.

The NHS Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting employees and the public at risk. It was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,862 at Liverpool Magistrates Court on 8 October 2009.

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.

“The NHS Trust ignored the recommendations it had been given by a specialist contractor to control the levels of legionella in the water system. No one took, or was given, responsibility for managing the bacteria, and suitable control measures were not in place.

“Hospital patients are at more risk than most of being infected with legionnaires’ disease. It’s therefore vital that NHS Trusts treat the risks seriously to help prevent deaths in the future.”

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