St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is to get £27 million in Government funding, including £3.5 million for water safety, after two of its patients contracted legionella.

The Department for Health and Social Care made the financial commitment after the teaching trust confirmed the incidents occurred in October 2017 and April 2018.

The NHS trust, which oversees St George’s and Queen Mary’s hospitals in Wandsworth, asserts its water supply is now safe – but wouldn’t disclose what happened to the patients due to risks of compromising patient confidentiality.

However, St George’s has also told public body NHS Improvement that it can’t take responsibility for certain aspects of patient safety if it didn’t get necessary financial backing, according to the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

That led to it receiving a commitment of £27 million for the 2019/20 financial year, with £3.5 million having also been allocated towards water safety.

And the plea comes as internal reviews into the mitigations put in place for water safety have revealed some concerns.

The HSJ reported that minutes from a finance and investment committee meeting, held in April, said a “deep dive” into estate risk found the mitigations were “still fragile and were heavily dependent on undertaking checks”.

An April 2018 report, wherein one of the two legionella cases took place, stated there was a “substantial operational effort” in St George’s to maintain safe services through “reactive actions”.

But there were also “significant gaps in management and other processes which undermined the successful operational of the water quality management regime”, the report added.

St George’s is said to have received “several” reports on water safety but none of them have been made public.

In a statement, the NHS trust said: “The water at St George’s Hospital is safe to use, and we continue to take steps to reduce the risk of legionella bacteria growing in our water system. This includes regular testing and monitoring of the water supply and temperatures.

“Water outlets and pipework are regularly disinfected, and we’ve installed special filters to taps in a number of areas to ensure the water is safe to consume.

“This year we will be investing a further £3.5 million, which will enable us to create additional water supplies to the site.”

A legionella infection, also known as Legionnaires’ disease, is caused by the bacteria legionella (its full name is legionella pneumophila).

It’s caught by inhaling small drops of water supply which itself is contaminated with legionella, with the time from being exposed up to becoming unwell spanning up to two weeks.

An infection is rare but it can be treated with antibiotics and treatment usually takes between 10 and 14 days.

To see the full HSJ article, click here.