Cutting the Legionella monitoring budget is one cut too far…

Legionella bacteria HBEIn times of austerity and budget cuts, many organisations are tempted to cut the Legionella monitoring budgets. At HBE, we are urging them to reconsider before it is too late!

Experts are concerned about the rise in Legionella occurrences. Even specialists such as Dr Tom Makin, believe that 90 per cent of UK cases of Legionnaire’s disease go unreported, which is a common frustration in the regulation industry.

Poor diagnosis rates by health professionals coupled with the lack of effective procedures to prevent the disease are common place issues, but now the big fear is that legionella bacteria is mutating.

The claims follow discovery of the existence of the bacteria at temperatures of greater than 50 deg C, which is currently believed to be sufficient to kill legionella bacteria. However the even more worrying trend is that there have been situations where resistance to biocides such as Chlorine Dioxide, have also been observed.

There is already a well known resistance building with anti-biotics in humans and it would appear that a tolerance is now being built up with the latest Legionella bacteria strains.

Indeed, legionella is now being reported in everyday areas such as car windscreen washer reservoirs, compost heaps, and dental practices. H&V estimates that 9,000 people contract Legionnaire’s disease each year in the UK, and with these additional sources of infection sprouting up, at HBE, we believe that urgent action needs to be taken.

David Harper, a leading expert agrees. He says that whilst people are very good at identifying what’s wrong with water systems and the probable causes of Legionnaire’s disease, they are often less good at taking remedial actions. He stated that there are several instances where hospital calorifiers were claimed to have been cleaned monthly, flow and return temperatures regularly measured and drain valves checked. The paperwork said the tasks had been undertaken, but upon investigation it was clear to him that this was not the case.

Budgets are being cut at just the time when we need to establish more rigorous testing and monitoring procedures than ever. Indeed, we would argue that there is a missing factor to the ACOP L8 guidance. This is the issue of incompetent management of the risk by contractors and organisations . There are already plenty of cases where contractors AND the organisation employing them have been successfully prosecuted. There has even been a crown censure for the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

And the real tragedy this that these cases only come to light when there has been a death or near fatality.