Legionella Advice for GP Practices

Legionella Advice for GP Practices

GP practices have a duty of care to protect staff and patients from the risk of Legionnaires’ disease caused by legionella bacteria in the water. 

GP practices should ensure that they have carried out risk assessments to identify all risks associated with their premises and manage them appropriately. 

CQC Compliance for GP Practices

In May 2022, Essex Live reported a GP practice had temporarily closed due to the detection of legionella in the water supply. 

“A GP surgery on the edge of Essex has been forced to close after traces of legionella bacteria were detected in their water supply. North East London Clinical Commissioning Group announced Billet Medical Practice Centre in Billet Lane, Hornchurch is temporarily shut until further notice on Saturday (May 14) following the discovery during routine testing of the water supply.”

What is Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal pneumonia contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets containing viable legionella bacteria. Such droplets can be created, for example, by 

  • hot and cold-water outlets
  • Atomizers
  • a wet air conditioning plant
  • Toilets,
  • hand washing sinks and kitchen sinks, especially outlets that are infrequently used.

Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe lung infection that can be fatal, as the Health and Safety Executive advises. The legionella pathogen may also be found in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Artificial water systems

Legionella outbreaks can happen from exposure to legionella bacteria from built-in systems where water is kept at a high enough temperature to increase the growth. This includes systems such as hot and cold water systems, air-conditioning systems, as well as spa pools, and hot tubs. 

It is essential that frequent testing is completed where the public uses water systems. Water used or consumed by the public should have an annual legionella risk assessment and regular testing done by a certified contractor. 

Patients might be at a higher risk if they contract Legionnaire’s disease.

Anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease, but the elderly, smokers, alcoholics, and those with cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory or kidney disease are at more risk.

GP practices and hospitals care for patients with underlying health issues, which might make them more at risk of severe health implications or death if they contract Legionnaire’s disease. 

Hospital water systems can be complex and varied; therefore, considering the risk to public health and the complexity of water systems found in healthcare buildings, this sector is at particular risk of being affected by the spread of legionella bacteria. 

GP practices should not fear legionella bacteria being detected. Instead, they should conduct the necessary routine testing and annual legionella risk assessment to keep their staff and patients safe. 

GPs and Practice Managers should:

  • Ensure the GP practice has an identified ‘responsible person.’
  • Ensure a Legionella risk assessment has been undertaken within the last 12 months.
  • Ensure the risk assessment includes an up-to-date diagram of the water system.
  • Ensure a current policy is in place for monitoring water temperatures and flushing outlets and recording these activities.

Water samples should be analysed for legionella periodically to demonstrate that bacteria counts are acceptable. The level of risk should determine the frequency of a risk assessment undertaken by the system.

Water Hygiene Services work with healthcare providers across the UK. We are experienced in working with healthcare establishments to create a safe legionella programme to ensure that the GP practice or healthcare provider is following the correct procedures about legionella bacteria.

If you would like to discuss a legionella programme for your building, please get in touch with us today

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