BRIGHTON'S hospital is facing prosecution for failing to protect patients from a deadly bug.

The trust that runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital is accused of failing to ensure its patients and visitors were protected from the risk of legionella bacteria - which causes legionnaires' disease.

The charge against Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust follows the case of cancer patient Joan Rayment, 78, who caught the waterborne bug at the Royal Sussex County Hospital before she died in November 2011.

The Health and Safety Executive is prosecuting the trust under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

It faces one count of failing to ensure that “patients and visitors to the hospital, including Mrs Joan Rayment, were not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety, namely the risks of injury or death should they become infected by legionella bacteria from the various water systems at that hospital”.

A representative for the trust appeared at Redhill Magistrates' Court on January 20 and the case has now been sent to crown court.

A spokesman for the trust said it was unable to comment ahead of crown court proceedings.

Legionnaires bacteria causes a serious lung infection, legionnaires' disease, which can cause high fever, muscle pain, cough, chest pains and breathing difficulties.

The bacteria is often found in sources of water and can multiply rapidly in air conditioning and complex water supply systems.

Paying tribute to Mrs Rayment in 2011, Father Robert Chavner, of St Nicholas Church, Brighton, described her as a “creative, imaginative and in some ways unconventional person, who lived out her vocation as a Christian in a particularly radical and vulnerable way, and who touched people and parts of the Church and of society which other Christians couldn't reach.”