Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell are urging the government to make tests for a deadly, water borne bacteria mandatory in hospitals across the UK after a premature baby died and 12 others became infected at a Bristol Neonatal unit.
The leading law firm said vulnerable patients could be put at risk because currently there is no obligation to test for the bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa in water supplies and experts are calling for this to be changed to prevent any further ‘unnecessary deaths’.
It comes after a string of outbreaks over the last 12 months that saw four babies die in Northern Ireland after contracting the bug last December and January. The bug was also found at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in March and most recently, in August, a baby died and 12 others were given treatment at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital.
Irwin Mitchell has vast experience in helping victims and their families who fall ill after contracting water borne diseases.
The firm is currently representing around 50 clients who were affected by the deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreaks in Scotland and Stoke-on-Trent earlier this year.
Julie Lewis, a Partner and medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, said: “We are deeply concerned to hear about this latest pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak that has had devastating consequences for one family.
“Currently, it is not mandatory to test hospital water systems for pseudomonas in the same way that it is for legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease and we are now calling on the government to make checks compulsory in all hospitals across the UK to prevent any further unnecessary deaths.
“People most at risk are those with weakened immune systems such as cancer patients, people with severe burns and premature babies in neonatal units.
“The good news is infection can be treated effectively with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started immediately, but hospital staff need to be aware of the symptoms and risks to ensure this can happen.”
Latest figures suggest that the number of Pseudomonas infections reported to the Health Protection Agency each year is between 3,700 and 4,000 cases.
It is usually spread through contaminated hands or medical equipment such as catheters and feeding tubes.
The severity of the infection depends how it gets into the body, but it can cause a form of pneumonia if it enters lung tissue and infection of a skin wound or burn can lead to serious tissue damage or even septic shock.