OXFORD hospital bosses are trying to find a ‘long-term’ solution to an ongoing legionella problem at the Churchill Hospital in Headington.

The cancer hospital at the Churchill has had an ongoing issue with Legionella-positive water samples since it opened, according to a recent hospital report.

The dangerous bacteria is commonly found in water and can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal type of pneumonia contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets.

The cancer treatment facilities, which opened in 2009, are managed by G4S under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

The centre cost about £125 million to build.

So far every significant positive result is followed up by the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team and involves G4S isolating the outlet, cleaning and chlorinating and conducting daily 'flushing' of the plumbing.

However, a large number of required actions were identified following the hospital’s Legionella risk assessment for 2017, with a report confirming ‘long term solutions’ are being discussed with the PFI provider.

Anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease, but the elderly, smokers, alcoholics and those with cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory or kidney disease are at more risk.

A trust spokesman said the trust was not aware of any patients who had acquired Legionella infection while in its care.

The spokesman added: “The trust and its contractors recognise the importance of good water quality throughout its estate and to that end it undertakes a regular and rigorous review of the quality of all its water systems, working closely with Infection Prevention and Control to minimise risks.

“In addition, the trust and its contractors undertake annual risk assessments and regular testing to comply with all required standards and implement the recommendations made.

“Other standard measures that the trust uses to minimise risk are regular flushing of pipes across the trust and maintaining the correct water temperatures to kill Legionella.

“The trust, through its contractual arrangements is protected from costs that may be incurred.”

Elsewhere, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust took the decision to close Wantage Community Hospital two years ago because of the continued  risk of a Legionella outbreak there.

The move was said to be ‘temporary’ while a solution was discussed however the facility remains closed to this day.

Campaigners have claimed the Legionella provided a convenient excuse for the trust to close the unit.

Members of Oxfordshire's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) ordered the trust to put aside capital funding to renew the plumbing at the centre.

However, speaking at a HOSC meeting last week, clinical director of community services at the trust Pete McGrane said the funds had not yet been used as health chiefs did not want to overhaul the plumbing system until the future of the facility had been resolved.

Councillors said the reserved funds must be spent by the end of the financial year while ordering Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Oxford Health to develop concrete plans to either go to a public consultation over the closure or re-open the hospital.

The next meeting of the HOSC will take place in November.