An ‘outcry’ has erupted over the disposal of hazardous waste as untrained NHS staff are ordered to deal with ‘clinical rubbish’ So screams the latest Daily Record headline.
“Hundreds of staff across Scotland have had to deal with bloodied dressings, pads and syringes even though they claim not to have been given the proper training or protective gear to do the job, following the collapse HES.”
“Untrained NHS porters have been forced to handle hazardous clinical waste after the collapse of Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), an investigation reveals today.”
“Well, that’s what the porters are there for. They form an essential part of the healthcare team, moving goods and patients from A to B, together therefore with a responsibility for the movement of clinical wastes from the site of arising to some remote storage area to await collection.”
“Liz Gordon, regional organiser of the GMB union, said: “This degree of specialist waste handling is not in the porters’ job description but the NHS seem to think the task falls on them.”
“I’d question whether they are trained or paid sufficiently to deal with such waste. In my view, this is not contained in their job description – it is specialist material.”
It is totally inappropriate to have contractors wandering throughout the hospital estate, into wards and departments, to uplift waste containers. That is a task for the porters.
True, they should be trained and too often their training – at least with regard to hygiene and safety – is sadly lacking. Likewise, the provision of suitable PPE items such as puncture-resistant gloves and ballistic trousers is ‘conveniently’ overlooked. That is wrong. But so too is this nonsense from the Daily Record and GMB Union.
The risks cannot be overlooked, nor can the lack of training and provision of suitable PPE items. That is not in question and there is ample literature to support that argument, much of it from Blenkharn Environmental and the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum where we have been advocating improvements in safety for many years. There is a good cause for concern, but the GMB argument seems entirely superficial. Hiding behind these safety concerns seems wholly reasonable but who might doubt that, with a generous salary increase, those concerns would spontaneously resolve?