BASILDON Hospital could face a huge pay out after admitting failing to protect patients and visitors from the deadly legionnaire’s disease.

The trust in charge of running the hospital is being prosecuted for a string of health and safety breaches, which led to eight patients contracting the fatal virus between February 2004 and December 2010, and caused the death of two men, James Compton and Raymond Cackett.

The other patients have been named as Egbert Van Nuil, Lyn Kilshaw, Roy Leech, Joyce Limbert, Francis Nutt and Verona Hughes.

After being fined £25,000 for similar failings following the death of George Bate in 2002, who also contracted legionnaire’s, just over ten years on the trust is being hauled in front of the courts again and an initial hearing was held at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

Pascal Bates, barrister for the Health and Safety Executive, said between 2006 and 2007 the hospital’s chemical treatment of the water system was reduced – legionella bacterium can live in all types water, but it only becomes a risk to health when the temperature allows the bacteria to grow rapidly, such as in water systems which are not properly maintained.

Mr Bates described the move as an “inappropriate cost saving measure”.

The hospital’s legal representative only spoke to give a guilty plea, and the case has now been committed to Chelmsford Crown Court for sentencing, as magistrates can only issue fines of up to £20,000.

The new hearing is set for March 14.