No end in sight for Scotland’s clinical waste crisis

Cash-strapped NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) is spending ever-increasing amounts of money on disposing of hazardous clinical waste, while a disposal firm awaits planning permission for a new incineration facility.

As reported in MRW, the closure of Healthcare Environmental Services Ltd (HES) whose Scottish headquarters were in Shotts, North Lanarkshire, has led to disposal problems across the NHS. Blaming a lack of incineration capacity, HES had built up huge stockpiles of waste, including amputated limbs, removed organs, syringes, infectious fluids and dressings.

Found to be in breach of environmental permits for clinical waste sites, it was stripped of its contracts with 17 English NHS trusts in December. The company subsequently lost contracts with14 regional Scottish NHS boards and was forced into liquidation, making 150 staff redundant.

A 10-year clinical waste contract, worth £10m annually, was awarded by the Scottish Government to Spanish-owned Tradebe Healthcare in February. Tradebe operates high temperature incineration facilities for clinical waste in Wrexham, Redditch and Fawley.

But work on a large-scale new disposal facility for Scotland, in Bellshill, is dependent on an environmental permit yet to be approved by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa). It was scheduled to be operational in April, but the start date has been continually delayed. Tradebe says it is on schedule to be operational in October.

 

It seems strange that the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland are bemoaning additional costs for disposal following the demise of HES Ltd. They were, by all accounts, gaining by HES’s lower prices and certainly did not object to that. And now they are paying the market rate that has increased and will stay high until the marketplace settles down and the various players establish a new pecking order. Not entirely a Government-caused problem, but SEPA and EA have not helped, and almost certainly made matters worse.

 

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