Patients moved out of Hornchurch hospital due to Legionella bacteria levels

�Patients have been moved out of St George’s Hospital in Hornchurch after elevated levels of the Legionella bacteria were found in its water system.

Families of the Suttons Lane hospital’s 44 in-patients were waiting to be told where they would be moved to as the Recorder went to press yesterday (Thursday).

The bacteria is commonly found in low numbers in water without risk, but high levels inhaled in droplets in the air can cause the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease - although no cases have been found at the hospital.

In a joint statement, a spokesman for NHS North East London and the City (Nelc) and the North East London Foundation NHS Trust (Nelft), who share responsibilities for the site, said elevated levels of the bacteria were found during routine testing, and added: “To ensure the safety of patients at the hospital Neflt has made the decision to move bed-based patients from the hospital.”

Other services remain open, but subject to review. Further test results are expected on Monday.

The statement added: “Most people exposed to the bacteria do not become ill with Legionnaires’ disease (a type of pneumonia) and the illness cannot be spread from person to person.”

The relative of one patient told the Recorder yesterday morning: “We’ve been very worried about it since we were told yesterday. I have been told that my elderly mother is going to have to be moved out of the hospital, where is she going to go?”

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The hospital’s future has been the subject of controversy in recent months, with an announcement made at the end of August that the inpatient unit was “unfit to remain open during winter” due to its heating system.

Other problems were also alluded to by Nelc. However an inspection by NHS user group Havering LINk in September found no problems with the boiler.

Earlier this week the Recorder learned, in a Freedom of Information response from Nelc, that the most recent building conditions survey was carried out in 2008.

A spokesman said that no decisions have yet been made on the building and options were still being considered.