Struggling NHS hit by new clinical waste crisis
‘Threat to patient health’
THE NHS was in turmoil last night after hospitals began stockpiling body parts in mortuaries amid a clinical waste crisis.
Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) has lost its contract for the removal of hospital waste in Scotland after concerns over its performance.
It admitted two months ago it had failed to incinerate hundreds of tons of waste and lost its NHS contract south of the Border.
Yesterday, it emerged contingency plans had been activated for storage of clinical waste in trailers at Scottish hospitals, after HES ceased pick-ups.
Sources told the Mail that the Spanish company Tradebe had won the NHS Scotland contract.
Most British hospitals have contracts with incineration firms to collect and dispose of clinical waste rather than doing it themselves. The material includes body parts, old drugs and used equipment.
An NHS Scotland source said: ‘The contingency plans were drawn up some time ago and have now been activated.
‘Hospitals are bringing in trailers which will be kept in the grounds to store clinical waste on site, while body parts will be put in mortuaries until the new firm can take over.
‘Officially the HES contract is not up until March next year but it seems their pick-ups have stopped in the interim.
‘So there is a lot of concern over how long we are going to have to store waste – and if we are going to be able to source sufficient numbers of trailers.’
Earlier this year, HES, based near Shotts, Lanarkshire, was subject to a criminal investigation but claimed it was the victim of a ‘witch-hunt’.
Yesterday, managing director Garry Pettigrew said: ‘We provided an exceptional service to the NHS. Waste was uplifted daily and the specially designed waste bins used were then thoroughly cleaned and returned to the wards and clinics.
‘Now, medical waste is being stockpiled in NHS hospitals and there are no facilities for washing the waste bins. Dirty bins are being taken back into wards and clinics and the threat to patient health is dangerous.
‘We have a hard-working, dedicated and loyal workforce of more than 350 people whose financial security has been sacrificed in an attempt to cover up a political scandal.
‘I am calling on the Scottish Government to launch an immediate, independent public inquiry into what has gone on here.’
Tradebe said: ‘There hasn’t been a formal announcement, so we are unable to comment.’
Scottish Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: ‘This is a totally unacceptable situation that must be stopped immediately. What sort of country do we live in where we are seeing clinical waste being stored in trailers in hospital grounds?
‘If HES is unable to fulfil its contract obligations, then SNP ministers must intervene on the grounds of public safety.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Full contingency plans for the management of clinical waste are now in place across NHS Scotland.
‘This will ensure that all waste continues to be stored, collected and disposed of appropriately.
‘Contingency measures ensure that environmental and human health are appropriately protected at all times.’