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Just three months after moving into a Bupa care home, an 86-year-old man succumbed to Legionnaires’ disease and died three days later.

What is alarming in this case is that the care home’s manager has received warnings about the presence of Legionella which causes the disease and have failed to act accordingly to contain the problem.

The care home had undergone risk assessment earlier that year and in 2014. The professionals that carried out the risk assessment gave fair warning to the care home staff, but its manager failed to complete proper training for Legionella risk management.  During the inquest into the death of the elderly man, the manager of the care home reasoned out that she was unable to take this training due to her high volume of work.

In the UK and other parts of the globe, care homes occupy a unique space, especially in the context of Legionnaires’ disease. Care homes are owned, maintained and managed by a diverse number of organisations ranging from local authorities to private companies. Whilst these premises may be classified as a place of work, for elderly people it is their home, and it’s these people who are very susceptible to Legionnaire’s disease. For care homes, Legionella testing is very important.

In the case of the Bupa care home death, one key shortcoming has become glaringly obvious: negligence. It is  essential to have a person who understands the water systems installed in the property, someone who has undergone legionella training and can carry out the inspections and monitoring which the risk assessment recommended.

The frequency of the inspection and monitoring of hot and cold water systems in care homes depends on the complexity as well as the susceptibility of these systems to the bacteria.  This person is also in charge of overseeing the strategies that are used in reducing and controlling Legionella risk in care homes. Traditionally, this involves storing hot water system at 60°C minimum which will inhibit the growth of Legionella.

The absence of this competent person, in the case of the Bupa care home death, has virtually rendered useless the risk assessments conducted as well as the repeated warnings.  And while the company in charge of managing the care home has released a statement about its plans to rectify the issue at hand, its negligence to enforce those plans at critical moments has led to a problem which could have been easily prevented.

All care homes must adhere to all necessary guidance to eliminate the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria.  If there is no competent person to look into taking action, there are companies with trained and qualified people that can do the risk assessment and care home Legionella testing for you as well as give appropriate advise on the appropriate action to take in case of proven exposure.