A leading public health consultant who specialises in waterborne diseases has warned that there could be more legionella outbreaks as maintenance and other checks are neglected because of a lack of investment.
The warning follows a spate of recent of Legionnaires' disease cases in Edinburgh - which currently number 51 with one death.
David Harper, an expert in the field of Legionella, waterborne contamination prevention and emergency response, said: 'The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) have had financial cutbacks of about 35 per cent across the board. Therefore, they haven't got so many inspectors that can go out and [make inspections] although they try their hardest. That is also the same with the local environmental health officers from the councils because they have had cuts as well.'
Asked whether we should be spending more on the prevention of Legionnaires' disease, he said: 'I strongly suggest we do.'
He warned that investment was needed in proper maintenance, keeping water in hot and cold water systems at the right temperatures and ensuring chlorine levels in whirlpools were correct. Without this, he said: 'I'm afraid to say that, in the future, you may find that there will be more reported cases and, unfortunately, more outbreaks.'
The majority of the confirmed cases in the most recent legionella outbreak are linked geographically to the Dalry, Gorgie and Saughton areas of Edinburgh.
NHS Lothian said investigations into other cases and possible links with the area were continuing, but estimated the potential infection area was about 44 square miles, in an area that is relatively densely populated.
The BBC reported on June 7 that it understood tests had been carried out at four sites in Scotland including cooling towers at:
· North British Distillery, Wheatfield Road, Gorgie
· McFarlan Smith (pharmaceuticals), Wheatfield Road, Gorgie
· Aegon (insurance), where towers are used to cool servers, in Lochside Crescent, South Gyle
· and Burtons Foods, Bankhead Place, Sighthill.