A decision to increase the number of patients being treated at a dialysis unit run by the University Hospitals of Leicester could have led to the death of a patient, it has emerged.

The patient was treated at Harborough Lodge in Northampton, which provides a local kidney dialysis service, and died earlier this year after being diagnosed with tuberculosis.

This followed the death of another of the unit’s dialysis patient who was diagnosed with the same strain of TB in July 2011.

An investigation has revealed both patients were given dialysis at the same time on neighbouring stations which could have been too close together.

The patients were sat next to each other for approximately four hours a day three times a week.

Harborough Lodge was originally a six-bed renal unit but was expanded to include 15 dialysis stations seeing 84 patients a week.

Although the building is owned by Northampton General Hospital the service is run by Leicester’s renal dialysis unit.

A report from Northampton General seen by HSJ said: “The dialysis stations are closely spaced, which indicates a potentially higher infection risk.

“In order to reduce the risk of any future possible cross infection due to the close proximity of the dialysing units, the number of patients dialysing has been reduced.”

Leicester has worked with the Health Protection Agency to test all patients and staff for infection and no further cases have been detected.

Phillip Monk, a consultant in health protection at the HPA who has been working with Leicester’s clinical team, said: “In this case our investigations have shown that the first case was likely to have been very infectious. Having thoroughly investigated the incident in accordance with national guidelines we are satisfied all necessary public health actions have been put in place.”

Suzanne Hinchliffe, Leicester’s chief operating officer and chief nurse, said: “A few months ago we thought there was a likely link between the deaths from TB of two dialysis patients treated at Harborough Lodge in Northampton.

“Whilst it can’t be proven, and the deaths were 12 months apart, we believe it is likely that one patient passed TB on to the other.”

She added: “We are satisfied that things like the proximity of patients or appropriate infection control measures are [now] being followed.”

A spokesman for Leicester said the unit’s operation would be reduced so it saw 60 patients a week, following infection control advice.