Human remains and other medical waste that require professional storage and treatment are building up at dozens of NHS trusts in England after a scandal-hit contractor stopped collections.
Ministers issued a statement on Tuesday about failings at Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), which was previously reported to have been stockpiling hundreds of tonnes of waste – including body parts – at its sites.
While some hospitals cancelled their contract with HES immediately, the firm has since “failed to collect waste from a further 24 trusts” it was working with in England, health minister Stephen Hammond said.
An NHS major incident has been declared and trusts have been told to switch to contingency measures, including storing toxic or infectious waste and surgical instruments in compactors, skips and trailers on the trust’s site.
Anatomical waste, such as amputated body parts or tissue should be stored in refrigerated units in the hospital mortuary, according to guidance seen by the Health Service Journal which first reported the issues.
The government said it enacted contingencies after the company failed to provide assurance it is going to be able to keep trading.
“HES has now failed to collect waste from 24 further trusts. [NHS Improvement] has sought assurance from HES that it has not ceased trading and is capable of, and will continue to provide services.