Last month saw the Department of Health release an updated version of the Health Technical Memorandum (HTM04-01), which gives advice and guidance on the maintenance, operation and management of water systems within healthcare premises. Martin Joyce, Risk Assessment Manager for SUEZ Water Conditioning Services Ltd provides his insight into the changes and what they mean for Facilities and Operational Managers within the Healthcare sector.

The HTM04-01 document was first released in 2006 to provide guidance on the legal requirements for the management of water systems within a healthcare setting. It still has the same focus today but has recently been updated to bring it more in line with guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive in The Approved Code of Practice L8 and associated Technical Guidance, HSG274. It is designed to be a “one stop shop” for information relating to any aspect of the water systems and associated management of the systems, from design and installation right through to ongoing maintenance and operational management. Its purpose is to ensure patient and staff safety through the control of water-borne pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia as well as Legionella.

Water safety groups (WSG) and water safety plans (WSP) were first introduced in the addendum to HTM04-01 (now Part C) in 2013 and were introduced as a means of ensuring key individuals from different departments, and with different technical expertise, were all involved in managing the risks from water-borne pathogens. The WSG’s aim is to identify potential microbiological hazards caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other opportunistic bacteria and the risks and hazardous events that may arise during storage, delivery and use of water. In the previous version of HTM04-01 this was limited to augmented care settings, but within the 2016 edition the requirement for WSG’s and WSP’s now extends to all healthcare premises. Part B of HTM04-01 outlines the requirements of WSGs in much more detail than the previous version of the guidance.

The knowledge requirements for those conducting risk assessments, and their expected level of competence, along with the competence of those involved with the installation of water systems and associated fittings, is also much clearer. Similarly, in the latest version of HTM04-01 Healthcare organisations are encouraged to implement a “water hygiene training scheme”. There is a clear outline of what the training should include in section 6 of the HTM04-01, which places an emphasis on an understanding of local, organisational and regulatory requirements for water hygiene and safety as well as a practical understanding of components, system design, disinfection and cleaning and storage to ensure water safety. SUEZ Treatment Solutions Training Academy already offers a one day course in Controlling Water-borne Infections within Healthcare which covers all the requirements within HTM04-01 as well as allowing successful delegates to achieve an Ofqual accredited qualification.

From a water treatment services’ provider perspective, it is also interesting that the twice weekly flushing has now been downgraded to weekly flushing (in line with the Approved Code of Practice L8 requirements). However, the risk assessment now needs to state whether more frequent flushing is required based on the risks identified. It is therefore essential that you partner with a risk assessment provider who is competent and knowledgeable in terms of the microbiological risks from a wide range of water-borne pathogens, not just Legionella. SUEZ Treatment Solutions UK is a leading water management specialist, who understands that it is a fine balance between patient safety and compliance with regulations. We work closely with our customers to understand their exact requirements and should help them to comply with the demands of all relevant legislation and regulations, including HTM04-01 on both new build and upgraded / retrofitted systems.

Contact us today for a personal consultation with one of our Water Treatment experts to find out more about the changes to HTM04-01 and how we can support you in ensuring your site’s compliance.