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Mental health facility closed during legionella investigation

17 February 2020

Prompt action was taken when three members of staff at Gatton Place mental health clinic in Redhill, Surrey, were diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease on 5 February.

In addition to closing the facility and informing Public Health England (PHE) as soon as the staff illnesses were confirmed, tests were begun to determine the cause of the outbreak and a deep clean was also carried out, according to Surrey Live.

The clinic remained closed for five days and when no source of the bacteria was found, the facility was reopened on 11 February.

Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Fiona Edwards addressed a board meeting on 12 February and said the trust was "confident it's safe to use as a building now".

The trust had also issued a statement to say it closed the facility on the same day as the discovery of Legionnaires' disease as a precautionary measure.

Experts advise that water should be stored at below 20 degrees Celsius or at 60 degrees Celsius to prevent contamination by legionella bacteria.

Investigations at Gatton Place found that its water coolers are fed directly from the water mains, avoiding stagnation and preventing temperatures reaching favourable conditions for legionella bacteria.

Similarly, the water supplies for the facility's toilets was also found to be too cold to allow the bacteria to grow.

Studies of the heating and cooling system showed that water supplies to taps were either too hot or too cold for the bacteria to multiply.

Precautionary measures were taken in the kitchen area of the building, after a risk assessment showed areas where it may be possible for the bacteria to grow, and microbiological filters were also fitted to washroom taps to prevent bacteria from passing through.

However, the five-day closure provides FMs with an important reminder of the issues that can arise from the discovery of legionella bacteria, which frequently incurs additional cost of remedial action and potential legal action should users of facilities fall ill as a result.

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