SUSSEX’S busiest hospital has admitted putting patients at risk of a deadly bug after one patient died.

Joan Rayment died after catching legionella – the bacteria which causes legionnaires’ disease, at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

Now the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of putting patients at risk over a period of more than six years.

The hospital’s chief executive Matthew Kershaw yesterday said he was “extremely sorry” for their failings and apologised unreservedly to Ms Rayment’s family.

The charge stated that between March 2007 and November 2013 the trust failed to ensure as far as reasonably practicable that persons not under their employ, including Joan Rayment, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, including the risk of legionella.

Simon Antrebus, defending the trust, entered a guilty plea on their behalf at Hove Crown Court yesterday.

Ms Rayment, 78, of Albion Hill, Brighton was admitted to the hospital’s Howard 2 ward in the Jubilee building in August 2011 suffering from blood cancer. While on the ward she developed legionella pneumonia - thought to have been caught from a shower- and later died.

An inquest into Ms Rayment’s death in 2013 concluded that although she died from natural causes, her death was accelerated because of catching legionella.

After her death dangerously high levels of legionella were found in the hospital’s Lawson Unit, Barry Building, Tower Block, Sussex Eye Hospital and outpatients department, as well as the Jubilee building where Ms Rayment contracted the bug.

A Sussex Police investigation into Ms Rayment’s death found legionella was an “endemic problem” at the hospital.

The trust is due to be sentenced on May 18.

  • A £480 million revamp is planned for the Royal Sussex includes demolishing the cramped and dilapidated Barry and Jubilee buildings which are almost 200 years old.

There will also be an expanded cancer centre and underground car park and a helipad will be installed on top of the hospital’s Thomas Kemp Tower.


Matthew Kershaw, Chief Executive of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, said, apologised after yesterday’s court hearing.

He said: “In 2011 unacceptably high levels of Legionella bacteria were found in water samples taken from one of the oldest parts of the Royal Sussex County Hospital and failings in our water management systems and processes resulted in inadequate corrective actions being undertaken as quickly as they should have been.

"As soon as these failings came to light we took prompt and decisive action to eliminate the bacteria from the affected showers and these showers were taken out of use until we were absolutely sure there was no further risk of infection.

“We also undertook a full and thorough internal investigation and a detailed review of Legionella management across the whole trust which resulted in capital works to the value of £1.7 million; an extensive training programme for staff; and a detailed programme of improvement to ensure all our systems and processes for the regular sampling and testing of water and the tracking of results were fit for purpose.

"These systems and processes have been tested on multiple occasions and found to be robust and effective.

“Although it was not the cause of her death, it is possible that Mrs Rayment contracted Legionnaires’ disease from a shower in our hospital and for that we are extremely sorry and have apologised unreservedly to her next of kin.”


Joan Ella de Torre Rayment grew up in Eastbourne and was a keen pianist from the age of four.

The retired teacher was a devout Christian and devoted a lot of time and energy to the St Nicholas Church, in Church Street.

She was director of Nippers playgroup and a churchwarden.

She was diagnosed with the blood cancer myeloma in 2008. She was admitted to the Howard 2 ward at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in August 2011 and died on November 9 that year.

After her death Father Robert Chavner paid tribute to Joan as a “creative, imaginative and in some ways unconventional person.”

Speaking after her death, he said: “Joan was very much part of the Christian family at St Nicholas and my life has been touched in no small way by her warmth, generosity and friendship and for that I shall always be grateful.

“She will be remembered most as a woman of the heart, for her loving was generous, wide, sincere, beckoning, necessary.

“She revelled in music and song; she loved conversation, liked a laugh, a new book, a new film, she had an eye for all that was beautiful. Joan was also a person of courage.”


LEGIONELLA is the bacterium which causes Legionnaires’ disease - a potentially fatal form of pneumonia to which everyone is susceptible.

Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in water tanks where the water is between about 20C and 45C.

There is no vaccine for legionellosis and antibiotics are not effective in treating it.

Hospitals are supposed to keep their hot water tanks at more than 60c to kill the bug.

Employers have a legal duty to protect others from risk of infection with legionella under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

In previous cases where hospitals have been prosecuted they have been fined hundreds of thousands of pounds.  

In 2013 Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was ordered to pay a total of £350,000.