HOSPITAL bosses were warned about the risk of Legionnaire’s disease but failed to act sufficiently before a patient died, a court heard.

A report in 2007 identified “major failings” in the way Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust was controlling Legionella bacteria, Lewes Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Deanna Heer said the failings required “urgent attention”, such as better temperature control, cleanliness and staff training, but “it seems that report was simply filed away and forgotten”.

In November, 2011 cancer patient Joan Rayment died shortly after contracting Legionnaires disease in August at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, although that was not her cause of death.

In March the trust pleaded guilty to failing to protect patients from the risk of Legionella between 2007 and 2012.

Prosecuting at the trust’s sentencing hearing yesterday, Ms Heer said that in such a complex building as the Royal Sussex, the risk of legionnaire’s disease was unlikely to be completely eradicated, but could be managed.

Describing the contamination at the time of Ms Rayment’s death as “chronic”, she added: “The defendant had been advised as early as 2007 of the risk posed by the state of its water system and of measures it needed to take.

“But it failed to take adequate steps to do so before [Ms Rayment] contracted pneumonia some four years later.”

She said in 2006 the trust commissioned a company to prepare a policy on managing the bacteria, but did not adopt its recommendations.

A third report it commissioned in 2010 also warned of problems. Tests in 2010 and 2011 identified high levels of bacteria.

Ms Heer said staff were not properly trained on the disease and the trust had failed to make one person responsible for managing the risk.

Defending, Simon Antrobus apologised on behalf of the trust. Since Ms Rayment’s death it has drastically revised its management of the bug.

Sentencing was adjourned as the court ran out of time yesterday.


LEGIONELLA is the bacterium which causes Legionnaires’ disease – a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

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

It is expected the hospital trust will be fined but Judge Shani Barnes was told that any fine would take money away from frontline care.

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 St Nicholas Church, in Church Street.