Week Of Reckoning For Edinburgh Legionnaires Victims

Expert Lawyers Hopeful Two Key Dates Will Shed Light On Outbreak


Specialist lawyers seeking answers on behalf of victims and the family of a man who died during the Legionnaires’ outbreak in Edinburgh have described two key events over the coming week as potentially the most important so far in terms of finding out what caused the illness problems.

Illness experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell representing 21 clients aged from 27 to 81 in relation to the outbreak, including the family of Robert Air whose death was linked to it, are now eagerly awaiting two dates this week which will shed further light on the outbreak and its impact on people across Edinburgh:

  • June 26th – A team of experts from NHS Lothian, the HSE and Edinburgh City Council will appear before the Health and Sport Committee to update MSPs on the handling of the outbreak and progress in identifying the source.
  • June 29th – North British Distillery Company is facing a deadline to show it has acted on an improvement notice – the first issued by the HSE in relation to the outbreak – over measures to control the risk of legionella bacteria in one of its cooling towers at its Wheatfield Road site.

The Scottish Government has revealed that 48 cases of legionnaires’ disease have so far been confirmed, while another 47 remain suspected.

Edinburgh City Council, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and NHS Lothian are continuing their investigations, with the latter confirming the source is likely to be cooling towers in the Wheatfield Road area of the city. Bacteria known as Legionella pneumophila serogroup1 has also been identified as the cause of infection among patients.

Elaine Russell, an illness expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Glasgow office, said: “We’ve heard from a huge number of people in relation to the outbreak, with more calls coming in all the time.

“What is already very clear is that while people from all walks of life have been affected by the outbreak, they all want the same thing – answers over how these illness problems emerged and what is being done to ensure to prevent anything similar from happening again.

“In the next seven days, we hope to see major steps forward. We are very hopeful that the committee session will provide some clear indications in relation to the progress of investigations and, ultimately, offer clear evidence in relation to the potential source of the outbreak.

“In addition, we hope that North British Distillery is going to set an example to other firms given improvement notices by showing it has taken swift and comprehensive action to improve hygiene controls.”

Gavin Stafford, a 33-year-old blacksmith from Penicruik, was working at a building site in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh shortly before he was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease on June 5th.

Despite being discharged from the capital’s Western General Hospital with antibiotics just four days later, he was then rushed back to hospital with severe back and chest pains. While there were initial concerns of a blood clot, the pain was revealed to be caused by swelling in his lungs caused by the illness.

Commenting on his experience, he said: “I have a very physical and active lifestyle but that has all changed in the past few weeks due to this illness. At the moment I can only walk very short distances and my joints are so painful.

“I’ve been through hell with headaches, muscle pains and a high temperature, as well as a load of tests in hospital, and just feel so weak. I also still have no idea when I’m going to be able to go back to work.

“It is time that I and everyone else affected by this got some clear answers over what has happened and some indication as to whether anyone can be held to account.”