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25 January 2016 Reading Borough Council criticised after death of pensioner with Legionnaires'

posted 27 Jan 2016, 00:54 by Ian Clarenbone

Reading Borough Council has been criticised for its 'systematic and continued failings' which led to it being fined £100,000 following the death of a pensioner in 2012.

Lewis Payne, died on November 1, 2012, after contracting Legionnaires' pneumonia while staying in The Willows care home in Hexham Road, Whitley.

At an inquest in May 2013 into the 95-year-old's death, flaws were identified in specific Legionnaires' training for staff, record keeping and auditing at the home.

The council admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined at Reading Crown Court on Thursday, January 21. It received a fine of £100,000 and £20,000 in costs.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the case to court and was severely critical of the council for its failings in not managing the risks at the care home.

HSE inspector Kelly Nichols said: "Mr Payne’s family has lost a loving father, grandfather, great grandfather and just before his death he had become a great, great grandfather. His family expected him to return home from the hospital to resume his normal active life, he never did. Reading Borough Council could and should have controlled the risk of exposure to legionella to the elderly and infirm as well as those receiving immediate care prior to returning home. RBC’s failings were systemic and continued over a period of time. There was a history of legionella problems at the home. The control and management arrangements were not robust and the legionella training of key personnel fell significantly below the required standard. The risks from legionella in nursing and care homes and the required control measures to manage those risks have been known and publicised in HSE publications since May 2000. It is really disappointing to find a local authority not managing those risks. It is important for all care providers to ensure they are managing the risks from hot and cold water systems with respect to both legionella and scalding risks especially due to likely exposure of more vulnerable people.”

Lessons have been learnt

Spokeswoman for Reading Borough Council Victoria Buckett said: "Following Thursday’s court hearing, the council would like to apologise and to again express our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Payne. While an inquest into Mr Payne’s death found there is no way of knowing for sure where and when he was exposed to legionella, the council acknowledges it was likely to have been during his short stay at The Willows. We fully accept the council’s failing to have adequate control measures in place at the time and this was reflected in our plea. The council’s own investigations found the correct safety systems were in place at the time to control legionella. Insufficient staff training however resulted in the necessary checks not being carried out or recorded properly. The council responded quickly at the time. Extensive checks of water systems at The Willows were verified by a leading legionella expert to ensure the immediate safety of all residents. Additional training was provided to all relevant staff at the care home.

A full-time legionella specialist now ensures all checks are regularly carried out, all data is correctly recorded, all records are kept up to date and are consistent and accurate, and that staff across all council buildings are properly trained."