In this article, Greg Rankin, CEO at ‘pioneer in the rapid testing industry’, Hydrosense, looks to raise awareness of some of the key areas of Legionella exposure in hospitals and other healthcare settings, noting that this risk is ‘just as relevant’ for new construction sites, refurbishments, and even fully operational, fit-for-purpose buildings.
The NHS and its building infrastructure are undoubtedly facing challenges that could impact the health of vulnerable patients, but there is another risk which could add to these if not taken seriously – Legionella. Legionella is a waterborne bacterium that lives in the natural environment, but generally only becomes a major risk to human life when it enters the built environment. It can cause a severe form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease, which can be deadly. Legionella is a rapidly multiplying bacteria that can – even if small amounts are present – infect a complete water system in no time. Legionella doubles every 24 hours.1 The hospital environment should be considered as a serious risk area for Legionella due to the large number of vulnerable and/or immunocompromised patients, in addition to 37% of A&E attendances and 63% of admitted patients in England alone falling within the higherrisk ages category (50+).2
The NHS, as one of the largest and most complex healthcare systems in the world, provides care to more than 67 million people in the UK. Over the years, this system has faced several challenges, including funding shortages, staff shortages, and rising demand for healthcare services. One of the most pressing challenges, however, is the outdated infrastructure of many NHS hospitals. A recent investigation conducted by ITV News highlighted the poor state of some, and particularly ageing, NHS buildings – from year-long leaks and collapsing floors, to ageing roofs and the potential for falling brickwork, and the risks these pose to the health and safety of patients and staff alike.3
Unresolved structural or maintenance issues
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