Thursday 24 March 2011

Legionella in third Barnet care home

Last year I wrote a much read post about my family's experience of a care home used by Barnet for elderly people with dementia and in need of residential care:

- as it happens we now learn that Southern Cross, the interesting company which took this home over, and was in charge when Harrow council launched a safeguarding adults investigation into standards there, is now in severe financial difficulties. The curse of Mrs Angry, yet again.

I updated this post in February, with news of the discovery in two Barnet care homes now run by a contractor, Catalyst, where, horrifyingly, traces of legionella have been discovered:

We have now found out that a third home has been found to have traces of this deadly bacteria.

Here is a press release from Barnet Council:

Enforcement order issued in Legionella incident

Barnet Council's Environmental Health Team has served health and safety improvement notices on the Catalyst Housing Group, following the discovery of Legionella bacteria at three of its care homes.

Higher than normal levels of the bacteria were found in the water systems at Apthorp Lodge and Dell Field Court in February and at Merrivale in March, following sampling by Barnet Council¹s Environmental Health Officers.

Recent samples indicate that a thorough disinfection treatment has effectively cleansed the water systems in the homes.

The enforcement notices require Catalyst to provide full and up to date Legionella risk assessments for each of their care home water systems.

Cabinet Member for Governance and Civic Affairs, Councillor Melvin Cohen said:

We take any breach of health and safety regulations very seriously and the council will continue to sample the water systems at all five care homes run by Catalyst and will continue to oversee their treatment processes.²

Although higher than expected levels of bacteria were discovered at three homes it is important to stress that no link has been established between these sites and any case of Legionnaires¹ disease.²

A full review of Legionnaires¹ disease cases since June 2010 in North East and North Central London, North West London and Hertfordshire has also been carried out by the Health Protection Agency. This review has found nothing to link any case of Legionnaires¹ disease to the care homes in Barnet.

Catalyst has so far provided the council with draft risk assessments for Apthorp Lodge, Meadowside and Dell Field Court, which the council is reviewing, whilst the remaining assessments are expected soon.

For more information about Legionnaires¹ disease visit:
Notes to editors:

Legionella bacteria are common and can live in all types of water including natural sources such as rivers and streams as well as water storage containers.

Infection with these bacteria is rare and can only occur by inhaling them in a fine water spray. Infection is not caused by ordinary washing or bathing and there is no danger at all from drinking water that contains these bacteria.

Mike Langton
Media Officer

It so happens that I have had experience of the inappropriately named 'Merrivale', as my late father was sent there for respite care, before being admitted to the home from hell where he was later incarcerated. While he was at Merrivale, we were contacted and told that they had been giving my father someone else's medication.

The press release evades some important questions: whether or not any cases of legionella have been identified, the risk was and is real: how did this contamination occur, and who is responsible for enforcing standards of cleansing that would prevent such occurances?

It is somewhat disingenuous for the press release to state that infection from legionella cannot be caused by ordinary washing or bathing, and can only be transmitted by fine water spray: surely this means that showers bear a high risk factor and many residents and staff members have theoretically been vulnerable to infection through this medium?

So: two blogposts with a common factor today (and possibly one more to come later): the salutory tale of what can go wrong when council services are outsourced to private contractors. Stories like these emphasise the risk of apparently inadequate monitoring of the services outsourced, of confusion over the responsibility for the maintenance of standards, and the impact on our community of a hands off council whose claim to 'better services for less money' is clearly demonstrated in these examples to be like so much else in One Barnet: shameless spin.

Welcome to Contract City.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that if proper care is not taken then there is a possibility that Legionella bacteria may grow. To avoid this problem Legionella Risk Assessment is a great way to prevent Legionnaires'