A care home provider has been fined £3 million after an elderly resident fatally contracted Legionnaires’ disease.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the care company had failed to:

·         safely manage the home’s hot and cold-water system during lengthy major refurbishment works by implementing necessary control and monitoring measures

·         make sure those responsible for overseeing Legionella controls and for taking crucial water temperature measurements were trained to the required standard

The court heard samples taken from taps in the resident’s bathroom showed a high concentration of Legionella bacteria.

The judge said the care provider ‘allowed Legionella to persist’ despite various ‘warning bells’ and that no one had a grip of the risk.

Consequences

BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

It was fined £3 million and ordered to pay costs of £151,482.

After sentencing, the resident’s family said BUPA were now ‘facing the consequences of their failings’.

Poor controls

The HSE say not enough was done to prevent the risk of residents getting the disease – residents were exposed to the risk of Legionnaires’ because adequate controls were not in place.

The risk is said to be more acute in care homes where residents are more susceptible due to their underlying health conditions.

The HSE commented ‘We would expect those who have a duty of care to understand this and have the necessary controls in place to manage the risk’.

Waterborne form of pneumonia

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe lung infection caused by inhaling droplets of water containing the Legionella bacteria.

The bacteria can be found in the water of air conditioning units, hot tubs, showers or taps.

Ellis Whittam discuss Legionella further here.

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