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As water hygiene specialists we know and understand that some industry sectors are more vulnerable than others which is why we support legionella testing in care homes. The potential effects of legionnaires disease which is caused by legionella contaminated water can be devastating and it is essential that those managing care homes are aware of its effects and how to prevent the dangerous bacteria.

What is Legionella?

Any UK business, especially a care or nursing home, should be aware of the risks involved regarding legionella found in water-based systems running throughout a property. Those responsible need to be fully aware of the dangers involved, as well as being responsible for complying with this important area of health and safety.

Legionella is primarily present in natural locations, such as rivers and ponds, yet it can easily be present in water systems within properties. The bacteria needs certain conditions in which to survive which, if present, means that it can spread throughout a water system and pose a great threat to the health and safety of the residents.

What are the Risks if not identified?

Simply carrying out a test every ‘now and then’ is not enough. Proper risk management plans should be put in place and the person or persons responsible for health and safety need to ensure that the care home business is fully compliant. The business should have an appropriate system in place to ensure that the risk, testing, management and prevention issues are dealt with in the correct manner – and on a regular basis.

The risk of failing to meet duties concerning legionella in care homes means that residents breathing in the bacteria, which is mist from contaminated water, can suffer from legionnaires disease or Pontiac disease. Symptoms of legionnaires are of a pneumonia-type nature and the vulnerable can contract the disease quickly if levels of the bacteria are at a particularly high level. The symptoms of Pontiac disease are more mild and flu-like. And obviously, as the residents of care homes are normally elderly and/or have immune related issues, they are more susceptible to getting infected.

According to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 any provider of care is regulated in order to prevent risk and harm during any care or treatment and this regulation includes the spread of infection.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will investigate incidents concerning unsafe or poor quality care which of course is detrimental to any business responsible for care homes and similar properties.

What are the Recommended Processes of Legionella Detection?

Controlling legionella in the UK is a legal requirement so, when planning a strategy for legionella testing in care homes, it’s important to have a solid process in place.

This ideally should start with a regular risk assessment where health and safety is an integral part of the management of care homes and the vulnerable residents within them. This does include a care home where all patients reside in the same property and also where there is property where residents live in individual homes on the same plot.

A second step will relate to competency when it comes to water testing. Legionella testing for care homes can actually be carried out by those responsible in a simple manner. Testing kits are an easy and inexpensive way of testing the water outlets and systems in care homes and should always be legally compliant. By carrying out the test and returning it to a professional laboratory, it will be monitored for any present bacteria and the results returned to you.
The third step will be to record those results and keep them on record should you need them for the HSE or CQC who will check to ensure that you are legally following processes required for a care home business.

And the fourth step is to take the advice provided should the results be positive and bacteria found. This is where the water system can be treated properly in order to remove the presence of any bacteria colonies and to prevent them over the short and long term. Should results be negative then a certificate is supplied to confirm that the water system has been tested and that no action is required at the present time.

AquaCert are able to provide specialist testing for legionella in care homes which are fully compliant with UK regulations.

We provide professional advice and can keep a record of the date the water had been tested and put a reminder in place when the next test should be carried out, therefore helping you with proper care and maintenance of your care home.

Our water testing process is simple and inexpensive yet legally compliant. Do contact us if you require further information on how many kits you may need for the property, or properties. We can advise fully on anything that you may need to know following the use of your water testing kits.

It should be noted that testing water for the presence of legionella bacteria is not sufficient to comply with the complex legislation as a control measure – a Risk Assessment will advise control measures required for an individual property.

Author: Duncan Hollis