Posted on 9/10/2018 by David Burgess
Outsourcing firm Mitie steps in to deal with hundreds of tonnes of medical waste as 15 trusts terminate contracts with Healthcare Environment Services
Healthcare Environment Services (HES) held contracts with several NHS trusts to dispose of clinical waste, but last week the Environment Agency said it had breached its permits at five sites and had launched a criminal investigation over the “excess waste”.
The sites affected include one in Normanton, in West Yorkshire, which had reached 350 tonnes of medical waste in September – five times higher than the company’s upper limit.
In a statement to Parliament Mr Barclay said: "I can confirm that NHS services continue to operate as normal.
"We are ensuring that there are contingency plans in place in case of any disruption, and that there is absolutely no risk to the health of patients or the wider public."
Mr Barclay said that the government was first aware of concerns in July.
He said: “On July 31, the Environment Agency notified central government of an issue concerning clinical waste collection and disposal for hospitals and other public services provided by the company, Healthcare Environmental Services.”
He added: "While the waste was stored securely, it was not being processed and disposed of within the correct regulatory timescales. At no point has there been an impact on public health or any delay to the ability of the NHS to carry out operations."
HES blamed “ageing infrastructure” and green policies for its inability to incinerate the waste.
After the issue came to light, the regulator, NHS Improvement, gave HES 48 hours to provide evidence they were operating within legal and contractual parameters, but the company failed to demonstrate they were doing so.
Consequently, 15 NHS trusts served termination notices to HES to formally end their contracts at 4pm on Sunday 7 October, Mr Barclay said.
The government said together with NHS Improvement and the affected trusts, they have negotiated a new contract with outsourcing company Mitie to step in and replace the service.
“This contract was enacted, following the termination of the contract with HES, and Mitie have been fully operational across all affected trust sites from Monday morning,” Mr Barclay said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said none of the firm's contracts with NHS Scotland boards have been terminated.
No instances of body parts piling up have been found north of the border.
HES has previously denied any wrongdoing and insisted that all clinical waste is correctly stored, with anatomical waste kept in refrigerated units.
"HES has never stockpiled hundreds of tonnes of human body parts and dangerous waste at any of our sites throughout the UK," a statement released on Friday said.
"The amount of anatomical waste we collect in England each week only amounts to 1 per cent of the overall tonnage of waste collected."
But the company previously said it had “highlighted the reduction in the UK’s high-temperature incineration capacity for the last few years”, and has pointed out to the Environment Agency the amount of waste produced by the NHS for incineration “far outweighs the entire incineration capabilities of the UK”.
The government said: “At no point has there been an impact on public health or any delay to the ability of the NHS to carry out operations.”