Basildon Hospital fined over Legionnaires' disease deaths

Basildon University Hospital
Image caption Basildon Hospital said it had spent £3m trying to control the legionella bacteria

A hospital where two patients died from Legionnaires' disease has been ordered to pay £350,000 in fines and costs.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard the patients died in 2007 and 2010 after contracting the disease at Basildon Hospital in Essex. Six more patients were infected during the same period.

The hospital, which admitted failings under the Health and Safety at Work Act, said it "apologised unreservedly".

It admitted similar failings in the case of a woman who fell from a window.

The patient, who was on the hospital's elderly ward, was injured in the 5m (16ft) fall from the unrestricted window.

Sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court, Judge David Turner said: "These are failures of very different kinds but each is in its own way serious."

Cleaning budget cut

He ordered the Essex hospital - one of 14 named by NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh's report into high death rates - to pay a fine of £100,000 for the Legionnaires' disease offence and £75,000 for the fall.

The hospital trust must also pay the prosecution's legal costs of £175,000.

James Compton, 74, from Billericay, died in 2007 and 54-year-old Raymond Cackett, from South Ockendon, died in 2010 after contracting the disease at the hospital.

Six other patients - Egbert Van Nuil, Lyn Kilshaw, Roy Leech, Joyce Limbert, Francis Nutt and Verona Hughes - were infected. The court heard some of them nearly died from the disease.

Opening the case, prosecutor Pascal Bates said the hospital had been battling the disease - a serious lung infection caused by legionella bacteria which is common in water systems - for up to 15 years.

But despite a previous prosecution following the 2002 death from Legionnaires' disease of 77-year-old George Bate, managers took insufficient steps to protect the public, the court heard.

Shower heads and thermostatic valves were not properly cleaned, the budget to kill the bacteria with chemicals was cut and attempts to tackle the disease by "super heating" pipes might have backfired by warming cold pipes, causing the bacteria to proliferate.

Mr Bates said: "This was a lengthy period of time during which the hospital fell short of its responsibilities and failed its patients."

Outside court, hospital chief executive Clare Panniker apologised to the relatives of those who suffered.

She said: "We need to ensure our patients are cared for in a safe environment where they do not come to any harm.

"We continue to invest significantly in upgrading and managing our water systems to minimise the risks of any patients contracting Legionnaires' disease in the future."

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