Contractor Catalyst told to improve care homes' health and safety

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A CARE home contractor has been told to improve its practices by Barnet Council after Legionella bacteria was found in three homes in Barnet.

Last month The Press reported that traces of the bacteria was found at Apthorpe Lodge in Nurserymans Road, New Southgate and Dell Field Court in Etchingham Park Road, Finchley management for the homes is contracted out to Catalyst Housing Group. But now the council has revealed that a third home Merrivale in East Road, Burnt Oak has also had traces of the bacteria found in the water system this month.

The Legionella bacteria is common and can live in all types of water including natural sources such as rivers and streams as well as water storage containers, infection is rare and occurs when it is inhaled in fine water spray.

The Health Protection Agency has confirmed that one person in Barnet was reported as having Legionnaire’s disease in January, but they would not reveal where it was thought the disease originated from.

This week Barnet Council has announced its environmental health team has served health and safety improvement notices on the group, requiring the contractor to provide risk assessments for each of the water systems in the care homes they manage.

Melvin Cohen, cabinet member for governance and civic affairs, said: "We take any breach of health and safety regulations very seriously and the council will continue to sample the water systems at all five care homes run by Catalyst and will continue to oversee their treatment processes.

"Although higher than expected levels of bacteria were discovered at three homes it is important to stress that no link has been established between these sites and any case of Legionnaires’ disease."

According to the council a full review of Legionnaires’ disease cases since June 2010 in north London and Hertfordshire been carried out by the Health Protection Agency and has found no link between any case of Legionnaires’ disease to the care homes in Barnet.

But the news has prompted John Burgess, Unison branch secretary for Barnet, to call for a public inquiry into the incident. He is questioning who is accountable for the outbreak, because the council’s social services department have a contract with Catalyst to provide care homes in the borough, who then have sub-contracts Fremantle providing the care. He said: "The fact they have served an improvement notice means that Catalyst have not responded quickly enough to Barnet Council’s concerns. I have still got a lot of questions that need answering. My mother has recently gone into a care and I would go mental if this happened where she is, I don’t know anyone who would not."

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