Edinburgh Legionnaires’ outbreak cost NHS £725,000

The Legionnaires outbreak last summer claimed four lives. Picture: Ian RutherfordThe Legionnaires outbreak last summer claimed four lives. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Legionnaires outbreak last summer claimed four lives. Picture: Ian Rutherford
A MAJOR outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Scottish capital last year cost the health service more than £700,000, a new report reveals.

• Interim report counts cost of last June’s outbreak

• “Considerable impact” felt by NHS Lothian

• Marco Biagi describes report as “rare glimmer of light into investigation”

Four people died in the Edinburgh outbreak, with almost 100 people thought to have been infected with the deadly bug.

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An interim report being presented at a meeting of NHS Lothian today found that £725,800 was spent by the board caring for patients, carrying out tests and providing information to the public.

But the report failed to identify the source of the outbreak, which had previously been linked to cooling towers in the south-west of the city.

A total of 92 cases were identified during the outbreak, between late May and late June last year, including 56 confirmed cases and a further 36 probable and possible cases.

Some 45 patients were admitted to hospital, with 19 needing to spend time in intensive care and three people cared for in a high-dependency unit – £374,000 was said to have been spent on critical care alone.

Among the four people who died were Robert Air, 56, a builder, and John Lonnie, 65.

The report said that health and safety authorities were investigating the circumstances of the deaths. It said “appropriate control measures” were applied quickly after the outbreak emerged and work was continuing to prevent any future similar incidents.

And it said that the measures taken resulted in “fewer deaths than in previous outbreaks of similar size”.

But the report said that the “proportion of patients presenting with severe disease, including altered mental state, was higher than that reported in other recent UK or European outbreaks”.

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Finding the source of the outbreak has proved difficult and the report said investigations had “not yet been conclusive”.

But it said analyses “suggest a source near or in the EH11 2 postcode sector in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh”. It added: “Data supported the possibility that cooling towers in south-west Edinburgh could be the source of Legionella.”

Professor Alison McCallum, director of public health and health policy at NHS Lothian, said: “While elements of the investigation are ongoing, a comprehensive review of the actions taken during the outbreak has been carried out and a range of recommendations have been made.” She said the aim was to ensure organisations were even better prepared in future.

Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi said that, a year after the outbreak, people still wanted answers.

He said: “All eyes will now be on the Health & Safety Executive to bring some closure to all those who fell ill or lived in the affected area. It is vital the HSE communicates more.”

Elaine Russell, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell which is representing victims of the outbreak, said: “The Edinburgh community deserves answers about why this outbreak happened and who is responsible.”