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9 February 2016 Bath man who died of Legionaires' disease caught it at Royal United Hospital

posted 10 Feb 2016, 06:56 by Ian Clarenbone

A Bath man who died from Legionnaire's disease at Royal United Hospital caught the illness from the hospital's water supply, a jury at an inquest into the death has found. Terry Brooks, 68, of Sydney Buildings, died of pneumonia caused by Legionella while he was an inpatient at the hospital in July of last year. The ten-member jury found that Mr Brooks contracted the disease from the hospital's water supply which was contaminated with the deadly Legionella bacteria.

The verdict read as follows.

"On the 29 June 2015, the deceased was admitted to hospital for a second chemotherapy treatment. On 20 July 2015, the deceased tested positive for Legionella and subsequently died on 23 July 2015 in the William Budd ward of the Royal United Hospital, Bath. The deceased was fatally infected with Legionella contracted from the William Budd ward due to a malfunctioning water supply and distribution system which subsequently tested positive for Legionella."

Assistant coroner Dr Peter Harrowing said there were serious failures with the investigation that took place at the hospital. He said there was a misunderstanding of the microbiological evidence by hospital staff which may have derailed the investigation. As such, he has ordered the hospital under the directorship of the director of nursing to form a policy team to produce a policy for the investigation of similar deaths in future.

Dr Harrowing also referred the hospital to the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission. He said that the hospital was taking reasonable steps to correct failures in its water system and that he did not need to take action in that regard.

Miss Brooks and her partner Leon Hughes, who both live in Cardiff, said: "We're delighted with verdict. We felt from the outset that the hospital had not been open and transparent with us, and we feel that our judgement has been vindicated by the coroner today."

Royal United Hospital statement

Helen Blanchard, director of nursing, midwifery and infection prevention and control on behalf of the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, has issued a statement following the inquiry.

She said: "First, and foremost we would like to reiterate our deepest condolences to Mr Brooks' family". 

"Shortly before his death in July 2015, Mr Brooks was admitted to the RUH for treatment for his acute medical condition. During his admission he developed signs of Legionnaires' disease. Staff recognised the symptoms of the infection but sadly Mr Brooks deteriorated despite treatment. The coroner undertook a comprehensive inquiry to identify the source of the organism which caused Mr Brookes' Legionnaires' disease and the Jury found that the hospital was the source. The Trust accepts the Jury's findings and we would like to offer our sincere and unreserved apologies to Mr Brooks' family.

The Coroner also heard evidence of a wide range of improvements since July 2015 and the Health and Safety Executive are satisfied that the Trust has fully complied with its improvement notice. In addition, the installation of electronic temperature monitoring at water outlets across patient areas is being rolled out, and plans for a significant refurbishment of the Trust's water system will commence later this month.

We wish to offer an assurance that we have followed the advice of the expert agencies and continue to take all necessary precautions to ensure our patients and staff are not at risk.

We will now reflect on the Coroner's recommendation and take the necessary action."