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How Legionella Testing Helps Care Home to Remain Compliant and Safe for Service Users

27 June 2023

A well-managed water system is essential for any organisation, but it’s especially important for those in the healthcare sector, such as care homes, who are responsible for the safety and well-being of service users. 

It’s vital to be aware of the susceptibility of the people in your care. While Legionnaire’s disease can cause serious health complications to a healthy person, it can be life-threatening to a vulnerable individual, including those who are immunocompromised or have other health issues such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In this blog, we’ll explore how legionella testing can help care homes remain compliant with Health and Safety Executive guidelines and ACoP L8 regulations while providing a safe living environment for their service users. 

 

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Chances are that you’ve probably heard of the infamous Legionnaires’ disease, but do you know what causes it and how dangerous it can be? 

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of lung infection caused by legionella bacteria which thrives in man-made water systems, such as water tanks, pipework and outlets that are not maintained or treated. 

It develops when a person inhales contaminated water droplets. It mainly affects the lungs, causing symptoms similar to pneumonia, including fevers, shortness of breath, muscle aches and chest pain. For vulnerable people, it can cause severe complications such as respiratory failure, kidney failure and septic shock. 

In 2015, a BUPA care home in Essex was made to pay a £3 million fine after their contaminated water system caused the death of one of their service users. 

86-year-old Kenneth Ibbetson had only been in residence at the care home for 12 weeks before he contracted Legionnaires’ disease. 

After investigation, it was discovered that the manager of the care home had repeatedly ignored warnings about monitoring the care home’s water system and failed to flush out the system when necessary. 

A more recent case occurred in November 2017 to a 56-year-old service user, who had contracted Legionnaires’ disease from the bathroom taps and shower head of the en suite of his room at Fordingbridge care home. The Group who ran the care home were forced to pay a £150,000 fine. 

Both of these incidents resulted in the unnecessary and tragic death of two service users, impacting family and staff, as well as being very damaging to the reputation of the care groups. 

 

How to prevent legionella contamination and maintain a compliant water system

Following the Health and Safety Executive and ACoP L8 regulations, you need to have a plan in place to manage and reduce the risk of legionella contamination. 

Here are the 3 measures you need to carry out to maintain legal compliance and protect your service users from Legionnaires’ disease.

 

Legionella testing

The key to protecting your service users from Legionnaires’ disease is to conduct regular legionella tests. This involves taking samples from the water sources in your care home, such as the outlets, water tanks and heaters to test to see if there is any harmful bacteria present in your water system.

Legionella sampling needs to be carried out regularly, and especially after there have been any significant changes to your care home, such as construction and maintenance that could cause stagnancy or damage to your water system. 

 

Water hygiene risk assessments

A water hygiene or a Legionella risk assessment involves an onsite visit from a qualified engineer who carries out a thorough survey to identify areas of your water system that are at high risk of contamination.

Once these areas are identified, a plan is made for all the remedial work and treatments needed to make your systems as safe and hygienic as possible! 

It’s important to note that a legionella risk assessment alone is not enough to maintain compliance. You also need to have the necessary remedial work done to fix any issues that have been flagged. 

If there is an incident at your care home, such as a legionella outbreak, and there’s proof that you were aware of the areas of concern that needed attention and you didn’t act, you could face legal prosecution and hefty fines. No thanks! 

 

Remedial work and treatments

This depends on the results of your assessment, but there is whole host of remedial services and treatments available to get your water system back to perfect working order, including: 

  • BS8558 water disinfection services 
  • Water softening and maintenance 
  • Water tank chlorination 
  • Dead end removal 
  • Full water tank replacements and modifications
  • Water tank cleaning 
  • Pipework reconfiguration 
  • System conversions from stored to mains water, and more!

 

Ongoing water hygiene service contracts from H2O Hygiene

Legionella prevention in a care home is a constant process. It requires regular testing and management to ensure that any signs of contamination are caught and dealt with immediately. 

To gain peace of mind about the safety of your water system and prevent incidents at your care home, why not secure an ongoing management and support contract from H2O Hygiene

We’ll take care of everything from risk assessments to remedial work so that you can focus on providing the best standard of care for your service users. 

To secure a contract for your care home or care group, get in touch with a member of our team today. 

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