If you manage, run or own a healthcare or care related premises then you have a legal obligation under Health & Safety Law & Regulation 12 of the Health & Social Care Act 2008 to have a valid and upto date Legionella Risk Assessment in place as well as carrying out other control and prevention measures.
Doctors, Healthcare Centres, Medical Centres, GP Practices, Hospitals, Hospices, Dentists, Dental Surgeries, Care Homes, Residential Homes and Nursing Homes are just some of the types of regulated activities that need to consider Legionella. Unfortunately there has been alot of confusion caused around the requirements of the ACOP L8, some of the confusion is even caused by the regulators themselves such as the CQC.
The HSE have issued an Approved Code of Practice for the Control of Legionella Bacteria commonly called ACOP L8, this is in effect a legal document. The ACOP L8 gives guidance on how to comply with the law in relation to Legionella, it states increased performance criteria for health & care related properties. The increased performance criteria is designed to minimise the risk presented to the more susceptible groups of people found in the these environments. Failure to meet the requirements of the ACOP L8 can lead to substantial fines, prosecution and even imprisonment.
What Do I Need To Do?
The first step is to have a Legionella Risk Assessment carried out. The ACOP L8 explains in some detail that those who carry out risk assessments need to be "Technically Competent". The risk assessment defines what Testing, Control & Prevention tasks may be required. If your risk assessment is not carried out correctly you can put lives at risk as well as waste money. It is also reasonable to assume that the recommended tasks may also be incorrect and ineffective.
It is for the Duty Holder to assess and decide who is competent to carry out the required tasks and that includes the hiring of specialist contractors. We commonly see errors in temperature monitoring due to the confusion between the requirements of the ACOP L8 & the CQC's safe hand washing guidelines as well as care providers paying for cold water storage tanks to be cleaned & disinfected when the work may not be required.
Why Choose Water Wise Services
Trust Mark Certified Specialists
Water Wise Services LTD is proud to be one of only a few businesses in the UK to have achieved the Government Endorsed TrustMark for our Legionella Services. The scheme ensures it's members are fully vetted to ensure Technical Competence, Good Customer Service & Good Trading Practices. Our team are also City & Guilds Accredited, Stroma Certified and members of the Water Management Society.
The Care Quality Commission Confusion
Under "Safe" the CQC are to inspect a service to ensure it is safe for users. The "Safe" part of the inspection should include the Legionella Risk Assessment. The guidance that the CQC gives to its inspectors and providers is misleading as it gives the impression providers may not need to carry out any control and prevention measures. For example, in section 27 of "Nigel's Surgery" (part of the online advice the CQC gives to providers) the CQC gives general advice taken from the ACOP L8 but the information that they give is taken out of context for healthcare providers.
Nigel's surgery states "A simple risk assessment may show that the risks are low and being properly managed. In many cases the risk assessment will lead the practice to conclude that the risks are insignificant and are being properly managed to comply with the law. In these instances, the assessment is complete, and no further action is required." This has led many healthcare related premises to believe they can conduct the risk assessment themselves and not carry out any further control and prevention tasks.
However, further reading of the ACOP L8 2.152 to 2.168 is entitled "Special Consideration for Health Care and Care Homes". This special consideration explains that you need to consider the people using the service and implement most if not all the guidance given in the ACOP L8. A vastly different recommendation in comparison to the advice given by the CQC in "Nigel's Surgery". These measure include but are not limited to flushing of outlets, regular temperature monitoring of the system (not just outlets), maintenance of TMV valves and much more. See our "Control & Prevention" page for more information on the measures you may need to put in place.
In reality the risk of Legionella in a care of healthcare environment can never be "low" if you access the risk correctly and take service users into account as the ACOP L8 requires. If the risk can not be low then a "simple" risk assessment is not suitable and the level of competent to assess, control and prevent legionella becteria needs to be of a high level.
The CQC have rated us as "Safe" so must be happy with what we are doing!
In June 2018 BUPA was fined £3,000,000 plus costs of £151,482 by Ipswich Crown Court for a Legionella related death & other failures including lack of training. BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd pleaded to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The investigation found that for more than a year, during which time major refurbishment works were carried out, BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd failed to implement the necessary control and monitoring measures required to safely manage their hot and cold-water system. It also found "failings across the board” and that those responsible for overseeing legionella had a lack of "training and understanding". The court noted that those involved in taking crucial water temperature measurements had not been trained to the required standard.
What is interesting here is that the CQC inspection prior to the Legionella related death rated the home as meeting the required standards for "Care and welfare for people who use services " and "Cleanliness and infection control". It was only after the death did the CQC rate the home as "Requires Improvement" under Safe. Unfortunately, this is not the only incident of this type we have seen, and no blame has attached itself to the CQC in these cases. Ultimately you need to remember if there is a health & safety breach it is not the CQC that will find themselves in trouble, it's you. Even if the CQC guidance is misleading health & safety is your responsibility.
The most common problem we find is the confusion between the requirements of the CQC's Safe Hand Washing Guidelines and the temperature monitoring requirements of the HSE's ACOP L8. We often find providers recording temperatures as required by the CQC, but this is only a fraction of the work required under the ACOP L8.