Prisons: Legionnaires' Disease

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 13th September 2021.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many prisons have (a) experienced an outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease and (b) detected legionella bacteria within their water, ventilation or other systems, in each of the last five years.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to prevent the spread of legionella bacteria within prisons in England and Wales.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to ensure that (a) prison staff, (b) prisoners and (c) visitors to prisons are fully informed about the (i) risks, (ii) symptoms, (iii) causes (iv) and care available in cases where legionella bacteria are present within prison systems.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

In the last five years, there have only been three cases of legionnaires detected in prisons. These have been in HMP Lincoln in 2017, HMP Parkhurst in 2016 and recently, in HMP Wealstun.

There is a comprehensive planned preventative maintenance programme in place which ensures the FM service providers carry out the relevant maintenance inspections and checks to detect the presence of and prevent the spread of legionella bacteria. A regular water sampling testing regime is in place to monitor potential bacteria. If high readings are detected, we would shut down the system to chlorinate the affected water infrastructure system and retest to ensure the water is safe to use. This is also supported by annual Statutory & Mandatory Compliance (SMC) standards audit which monitors the performance of the FM service providers.

We would notify the residents and staff that the system is isolated and drained down (this is done immediately) so risk to health is minimal. The system is taken out of use until it is re-tested and the system is clear of bacteria.

In the case of HMP Wealstun, some readings of legionella bacteria were detected during routine water sampling, as part of preventative maintenance checks. All the affected systems have been isolated and treated in accordance with our standard procedures.

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