Basildon Hospital to face court over legionella cases

Legionella bacteria
Image caption Basildon Hospital has spent £3m in the past 10 years trying to control the legionella bacteria

An Essex hospital is to be prosecuted for allegedly failing to protect the public from the cause of Legionnaire's disease.

The disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is prosecuting Basildon Hospital under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The hospital said it had not had any cases of Legionnaire's Disease since 2011.

Official figures show there have been 13 cases of patients catching the legionella bacteria since 2002.

Last August, a patient died of Legionnaire's.

The single charge from the HSE relates to cases of legionella at the hospital between February 2004 and December 2010.

'Reviewing the leadership'

The prosecution centres on an alleged breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which refers to the duty of employers to protect non employees from "risks to their health or safety".

Fines under Section 3(1) of the act are unlimited at crown court and confined to £20,000 in magistrates courts.

Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Trust, said the hospital had spent £3m and introduced a number of changes in the past decade in an attempt to control legionella.

"The trust has not had any cases of Legionnaire's Disease since 2011 and we will continue to work with the HSE and other experts to do all we can to combat Legionella," she said.

"As new chief executive, I will be reviewing the leadership structure to ensure we have the right experience at board level."

She said a joint legionella review has been produced by the hospital in partnership with other health organisations.

The report, she said, concluded the current risk of contracting legionella at the hospital was about "one in a million".

The first hearing in the case is expected to take place at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court at a later date.

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