SEVERAL NHS trusts in the North-East have had their clinical waste collections stopped after a scandal-hit contractor ran into difficulties. Hospitals run by ten NHS trusts in the region have been told they must instead store clinical waste on-site for up to two weeks.
A major incident has been declared since Healthcare Environmental Services Ltd stopped collecting waste including amputated body parts, last Thursday.
Thirty five NHS trusts in England have had their routine clinical waste collections cancelled whilst affected trusts have engaged emergency plans.
Hospitals run by the County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust are understood to be among ten NHS North-East trusts affected.
A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust said: “We are using contingency arrangements to manage our waste due to collection issues. All our waste is being managed safely and the new arrangements will not impact upon our services. Patients should attend their appointments as normal.”
Earlier this year, it was revealed that hundreds of tonnes of clinical waste and infectious liquids from patients had become stockpiled at Healthcare Environmental Services’ Normanton processing site in Yorkshire.
Excess waste levels at the site reached 350 tonnes – five times the 70-tonnes permitted, prompting government action over the summer.
It had been found that Healthcare Environmental Services Ltd had stockpiled clinical waste because it had not been able to incinerate waste fast enough.
In September, an emergency meeting was set up and £1m was set aside to help the country’s NHS trusts continue the disposal of clinical waste in case the company collapsed. As a contingency, NHS chiefs have since ordered the installation of containers for continued temporary storage of human remains across its affected hospitals. Amongst human remains, infectious liquids, cytotoxic and pharmaceutical waste as well as instruments used during surgery have are being stored at hospitals.
NHS guidance states anatomical waste including amputated limbs or human tissue should be kept in refrigerated units at hospital mortuaries if unlikely to be collected within 24 hours.
Temporary guidelines say temporary storage units must be placed on impenetrable surfaces like concrete or asphalt to minimise risk of contamination to nearby surface water.
Professor Keith Willett, medical director for acute care and emergency preparedness at NHS England, said: “The NHS has contingency plans in place for clinical waste and patients should be assured that their care will be unaffected.”
The Government is reviewing the way the NHS awards contracts for clinical waste management.
All this seems to reflect very badly on the Environment Agency who had for years been trying to manipulate the industry, or was to just one of their employees going it alone who was at the root of that. However, this all sits uncomfortably with pronouncements from the Government who say that all of this is sorted, through Mitie, and especially by the Environment Agency who have assured the Nation that there is an adequate infrastructure and ample capacity for clinical wastes.
Could that be, possibly, however remotely, by some unfortunate misunderstanding that will no doubt be swept under the carpet or blamed upon others, a mistake? Or as politicians are prone to say, perhaps the ‘mis-spoke’!