The Forgotten Patients: Is Legionella In Care Homes On The Rise?

Posted on November 28, 2019
legionella in care homes

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With most care home residents more susceptible to the water-borne bacteria, it would be within reason to assume that Legionella control in care homes would be a priority. However, with outbreaks of Legionella in care homes being increasingly cited in the news, questions are being raised about the care sector’s capability to control Legionella and protect residents from Legionnaires’ disease. With this in mind, we take a look at whether Legionella in care homes really is on the rise, and the long-term solution that can protect residents.

Legionella in Care Homes – Is There A Cause For Concern?

As those who are immuno-compromised, over the age of 55 and those with pre-existing health conditions are more likely to contract Legionnaires’ disease, the disease most commonly associated with Legionella, Legionella in care homes has always been a cause for concern. However, it is without doubt that there has been a significant rise in the number of care home related Legionella outbreaks reported recently. Sadly many of those have had fatal consequences.

As HSE inspector Vicky Fletcher said regarding a recent Legionnaires’ disease case at a care home in Essex: “The risk [of contracting Legionnaires’ disease] is more acute in care home settings because residents are more susceptible due to their underlying health conditions. We would expect those who have a duty of care to understand this and have the necessary controls in place to manage the risk.” However, as the judge working on the same case said, ‘no one had a grip of the risk’ at this particular care home.

The above statements, along with the devastating cases that accompany them, leads to understandable worry from residents and their families not just in the reported care home, but in other homes across the sector, and leads to a general consensus that Legionella in care homes is not appropriately managed. 

However, this is not the way it should be. Nor, should Legionella control in care homes only become a concern once an outbreak has occurred and residents have fallen ill. As Lin and Yu state in their 2015 article, outbreaks of Legionella in care homes and the panic it causes can, ‘lead to adoption by the facility of expensive, short-term measures that are unscientific and expensive’ – which can lead to another failure on residents and their families. 

Legionella Control in Care Homes

So what is the solution to Legionella in care homes?

Obviously, Legionella control in care homes should be a priority across the board to protect the safety of residents and provide peace of mind to relatives and patients alike. Such safety and compliance can be achieved by installing a proven water treatment modality, such as a copper silver ionisation system. As Lin and Yu state: ‘Ten published studies have demonstrated that copper-silver ionization is an effective method to control Legionella when both ion levels and Legionella cultures were monitored.’ Our cloud-based water management system, Tetras, can also help care home facilities and estates managers to better manage their water risk by allowing them to trend sample results, analyse individual outlet results and even export water sample results into Excel spreadsheets in order to better understand results. This combination of our advanced water treatment and management service allows facilities managers and care homes as a whole to save time and money when it comes to Legionella control without compromising on water and resident safety.

In addition to a proven water treatment method, all responsible persons should have adequate training and understanding of Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease in order to appropriately manage their incidence in care homes.

References:

  • Bupa fined £3m over care home resident’s Legionnaires’ disease death: https://www.ioshmagazine.com/article/bupa-fined-ps3m-over-care-home-residents-legionnaires-disease-death
  • Lin and yu, 2015: https://copperandsilverassociation.com/lin-yu-2015/

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