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NHS Water Safety Response to COVID- 19

In the midst of the evolving the Corona Virus pandemic many industry experts are now expressing their concern around the practicality in ensuring continued Water Safety controls in Hospitals and the need to take appropriate steps to ensure that ‘one crisis doesn’t lead to another’.

Ensuring that immunocompromised patients are protected from the risks of exposure to waterborne pathogens is essential in preventing Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs), that could otherwise compound the challenge the NHS currently faces around available bed space and resources.

At T-Safe we work with over 350 hospitals in the UK & Ireland. Over the past few weeks we have gained valuable insight to the challenges the sector faces and the steps being taken to mitigate against the risks from Legionella and Pseudomonas bacteria, during the Corona Virus pandemic.

The Challenge

We have seen the NHS respond to the monumental task of increasing ICU bed capacity through re-purposing wards, re-opening mothballed facilities and the recently announced plans to establish field hospitals such as the Nightingale project at the London Excel.

NHS organisations take their responsibilities regarding water safety very seriously, operating in accordance with HTM, SHTM and HSE guidelines. Typically, this will involve robust management controls and considered planning, decision making and review processes- channelled through the Water Safety Group mechanism.

However, given the breakneck speed at which the NHS has had to react in preparing for an increase in patient admissions it is both impractical and unrealistic that the normal stringent processes can be followed, when the demand for front line services takes precedent at the height of a crisis.

Water Safety Risks

In the current environment Estates Teams face a host of practical Water Safety challenges and have mobilised under extreme operational pressure to face it.

1.  Re-purposing Wards

Many Wards are being re-purposed to house new COVID-19, which means a significant change in the patient profile and potential increased risk of waterborne pathogen infection due to susceptibility. Estates Teams are conducting localised Risk Assessment Reviews in conjunction with Infection Control and Clinical Departments to assess the change in risk and put in place appropriate heightened control measures where necessary.

2.  Mothballed Wards & Temporary Systems

The demand for increased bed space to cater for the admission of COVID-19 and to accommodate displaced patients has led to the re-opening of previously mothballed facilities. Dependant on the extent of the de-commissioning steps previously undertaken, such water systems may present a significant microbiological risk due to stagnation and the formation of biofilms. Estates Teams are utilising Water Treatment providers designated as essential workers to undertake emergency re-commissioning works. The same applies to the installation of newly extended or temporary water systems.

3. Maintenance Restrictions

Estates Teams are under significant pressure operationally due to an increase in urgent maintenance works compounded by a reduction in workforce resources due to self-isolation containment measures. Consequently, many of the routine maintenance tasks that form an integral part of the critical Water Safety Control Scheme cannot be completed as usual. Estates Teams are responding in real time and prioritising the most urgent works and focusing key measures that ‘break the causation chain’ by introducing heightened flushing and maintaining optimal water system temperatures.

4. Water Sampling

In normal circumstances the Water Safety control measures adopted would be informed by the result of targeted or surveillance water sampling. However, traditional laboratory-based analysis services whilst remaining important come with a lag time of between 4-14 days dependant on the micro-organism being tested. Additionally, this also represents a logistical challenge due to a reduction in available courier services. As a result, many Estates Teams have implemented rapid onsite water sampling and testing systems to help inform decisions around water safety controls. This may be in the form of single use field test kits or bench top arrangements with higher sample analysis capacity.

How T-Safe can Help?

Despite the wide range of reactive control measures being implemented, uncertainty over Water Safety remains. As a result, many Hospitals are taking the proactive measure of installing Point of Use Filters to ensure immediate and assured protection from Legionella and Pseudomonas bacteria.

T-Safe Medical Point of Use Filters have provided this level of protection across the NHS, having been deployed in over 350 hospitals throughout the UK & Ireland.

T-Safe has been specifically designed for demands of the healthcare sector, incorporating a host of features that are particularly relevant to the current challenges.

  • Sterilising Grade Membrane Filtration effective against Legionella and Pseudomonas bacteria
  • Long Lifecycle of 92 Days which can reduce both the cost and maintenance burden by 66%
  • High Flow Rates that enable effective Hand Hygiene practices, a key control measure for COVID-19 infection prevention
  • Compatibility with healthcare tap & shower outlets meaning ease of installation and immediate protection
  • Validated to ASTM F838-15a and WRAS Approved

T-Safe filters are currently in high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we have supplied over 350 Hospitals with filters as part of their Water Safety contingency plans. We have ring fenced large stocks for the NHS and can also offer an Emergency Next Day Delivery Service.

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