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Converted toilets pose legionella infection hazard, HPA warns


Hospital toilets that have been converted into store cupboards pose a legionella risk, the Health Protection Agency has warned.

The HPA’s head of legionella Nick Phin warned the conference that so called “dog legs” -  pipes from a decommissioned toilet or sink but still joined to the water system - had been at the centre of legionella outbreaks.

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Many hospitals have converted old toilets into stock cupboards, which are used to store supplies such as bedding for wards. If dog leg pipes leak onto those supplies, any bacteria in the water could spread throughout the hospital.

HPA data shows more than three quarters of hospital legionella outbreaks were traced to water systems.

Professor Phin also warned the lukewarm temperatures of hospital hot water pipes had created an ideal breeding ground for the legionella bacteria.

He said the NHS had made a mistake in lowering the temperature of hot water to avoid scalding.

“You maybe create other, more serious, problems, by doing that,” he told delegates.


Readers' comments (9)

  • why are hospitals converting toilets into store cupboards? Don't the patients need the toilets any more? How much are these conversions costing the nhs?

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  • It's due to poorly designed areas in hospitals. We have a storeroom that was once a toilet - it is in a ridiculous place and within easy distance of a number of other tiolets - hence the conversion when we did not have space for archiving. So the message is design hospitals properly!

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  • is this article a hoax? it is too ridiculous to be serious!

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  • These conversions happen more often than you would think. Technology and equipment have become more common place, not to mention bariatric patients, leading to more and more room needed to store things. Older hospitals that get patched and fixed suffer most, although I don't believe new hospitals are future proofed enough with enough thought at the planning process to avoid these conversions!

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  • What if a toilet block was converted into a working reception area and then suffered leakage from the disused pipes. Would that carry the same risk to health?

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  • In our emergency departmente (A&E &MAU) we have an offices that have been converted from toilets and sluice rooms. One office suffered an overflow through the ceiling from the gents toilet above. How safe are we????

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  • Steve Williams

    Judging by all the purulent effluence that’s been coming down from the upper management offices in recent weeks regarding cut-backs etc. it wasn't just store cupboards that they converted from leaky old toilets!

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  • I would totally refuse to work in an office that had been converted from a toilet or put my patients there. What about human rights and in a country that was previously considered to be civilised. Cut backs are fine but not putting the health and safety of the public at risk especially when there are so many trivial health and safety laws. Has this one escaped the notice of the inspectors or has the funding for their inspections run out?

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  • It is often the case that disused toilets or showers are taken for storage space. In the fight against Legionella a "use it or loose it" mentality has to be adopted. Dead legs (dogs legs??) should be removed from systems. The risk is not from a leaking dead leg but from water stagnating in the pipe (dead leg) leading to the proloferation of bacteria that can move into the main pipework system. Legionella bacteria gets into the body through aerosols (small droplets in the air) created by fittings that create sprays (i.e showers and taps )or by aspiration of larger droplets(i.e intubated patients). The bacteria enters into the lungs . There is recent information coming to light about a case where it was contracted through an open wound but this is by exception. The comment about the NHS making a mistake in lowering temperatures to reduce scalding is not necassarily correct. Temperatures are at the point of use are reduced to prevent scalding but distribution temperatures are kept at a level to prevent Legionella colonisation. The Health Technical Memorandum which is written as guidance to NHS trusts goes beyond mandatory requirements and if followed correctly ensures that water systems in Hospitals and Healthcare buildings are the safest you will find anywhere. It will be interesting in the next few years when screening begins for Legionnaires disease of all atypical Pneumonia cases. How many reported deaths are there in the geriatric population (or other susceptible groups) through Pneumonia aquired outside hospital. Studies in Germany suggest that the number of reported cases have gone up from 300 to 30,000+ over the last year. When was the last time their (or your) shower head was cleaned and disinfected at home? Food for thought?
    Check out this link for more general information -

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