Clin­i­cal waste firm re­ceived £1m be­fore fail­ing to pay staff

Body parts dis­posal com­pany had been handed size­able sums from var­i­ous NHS boards in the weeks lead­ing up to mass re­dun­dan­cies

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS - By Paul Hutcheon

A SCAN­DAL-HIT clin­i­cal waste firm which did not pay its staff last month re­ceived nearly £1 mil­lion from NHS boards be­fore run­ning into fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

Health­care En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Ltd (HES) ben­e­fited from the pub­lic money in the weeks lead­ing up to staff be­ing made re­dun­dant days af­ter Christ­mas.

Mon­ica Len­non, Scot­tish Labour’s shadow health sec­re­tary, said: “Hav­ing met HES work­ers with Scot­tish Labour leader Richard Leonard a few days ago, it’s clear the unan­swered ques­tions are stack­ing up, not least what hap­pened to this money the com­pany re­ceived from NHS boards.”

Shotts-based HES, which has var­i­ous sites across the UK, in­clud­ing one in Dundee, has been at the cen­tre of a huge row over its han­dling of the dis­posal of clin­i­cal waste from health ser­vice trusts and boards.

A multi-mil­lion-pound com­pany, HES ran into dif­fi­cul­ties in Oc­to­ber af­ter its con­tracts with more than a dozen NHS trusts south of the Bor­der were can­celled when back­logs of un­pro­cessed waste were found at its de­pots.

Ini­tial re­ports claimed that hun­dreds of tonnes of waste, in­clud­ing body parts, had failed to be in­cin­er­ated. It is un­der­stood the back­log at Shotts has still not been cleared. The NHS in Scot­land, whose own con­tract with HES cov­ered hos­pi­tals, GP surg­eries and phar­ma­cies, fol­lowed suit by say­ing its work with the firm would not be re­newed in 2019.

The cri­sis at the firm, whose man­ag­ing di­rec­tor is Garry Pet­ti­grew, es­ca­lated and staff re­ceived a text from the MD’s son on Christ­mas Eve about De­cem­ber’s wages: “Guys, as it stands the bank are still un­will­ing to re­lease the funds for Fri­day.

“We are putting all kinds of pres­sure on them to do so but they still haven’t budged yet.”

He added: “Try and en­joy your Christ­mas and switch off for a cou­ple of days. Best wishes.”

Staff at the firm, which em­ploys around 400 peo­ple, were then handed re­dun­dancy no­tices and some for­mer em­ploy­ees have turned to food banks.

How­ever, although staff worked at HES for no money last month, pub­lic records re­veal the firm re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant pay­ments from NHS clients weeks be­fore the Christ­mas cri­sis.

NHS La­nark­shire paid HES over £252,000 in Oc­to­ber for clin­i­cal waste dis­posal, in­clud­ing in­di­vid­ual pay­ments of £ 27,857, £ 29,784, £ 127,209 and £67,401.

Ac­cord­ing to NHS La­nark­shire, no money was handed over in Novem­ber or De­cem­ber, and Oc­to­ber’s sum in­cluded out­stand­ing in­voices.

NHS Greater Glas­gow and Clyde paid HES £180,412 for “ad­min sup­plies” on Oc­to­ber 30, and £199,195 in mid-Novem­ber. No pay­ment was made in De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to NHSGGC.

HES also re­ceived £79,351 from NHS Loth­ian i n Novem­ber, as well as £184,315 in the pre­vi­ous month. De­cem­ber’s pay­ment has not been fi­nalised. NHS Grampian also paid the firm £76,296 in Oc­to­ber.

The sums, which come to nearly £1m, are al­most cer­tainly a frac­tion of the pay­ments from Oc­to­ber on­wards, as they are based on the NHS boards that have up-to-date on­line records.

Len­non added: “Both Richard and I wrote to Health Sec­re­tary Jeane Free­man at the start of the Christ­mas break but she hasn’t re­sponded, and both she and Derek Mackay have been si­lent while hun­dreds of fam­i­lies across the UK have faced a Christ­mas not know­ing what their fu­ture holds.

“It’s com­pletely un­ac­cept­able for the Scot­tish Health and Econ­omy min­is­ters to go miss­ing like this, and we will de­mand­ing an­swers when Par­lia­ment re­turns.”

The Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (SEPA) is­sued two en­force­ment no­tices to HES in early Septem­ber on the need for more ro­bust sys­tems in re­la­tion to the track­ing and man­age­ment of waste.

Weeks later, the UK En­vi­ron­ment Agency an­nounced that HES was in breach of its per­mits at four of six clin­i­cal waste sites and the quango be­gan a crim­i­nal investigation over the unau­tho­rised back­log.

Strug­gling work­ers told a tabloid news­pa­per last week of how the firm’s dif­fi­cul­ties had af­fected them per­son­ally.

For­mer HES driver Jim Sharp, 55, said: “It is dev­as­tat­ing, isn’t it? I had a small idea the com­pany were hav­ing trou­ble down south.

“I’ve got three kids and two grand­kids who stay with me. I feel des­per­ate to­day. The com­pany should be re­spon­si­ble.

Mark Bul­loch, who lives with his wife and daugh­ter, also said: “My mort­gage was due on Fri­day. My wages should go in on the 28th and ev­ery­thing comes out that day.

“I’ve got texts from my bank say­ing there’s not enough money to pay any­thing. I’m hop­ing my mort­gage com­pany will see the sit­u­a­tion that I am in.

“It is ab­so­lutely grim.

“My fam­ily is dev­as­tated. It is the worst Christ­mas and New Year ever. We are scrimp­ing and scrap­ing. I hon­estly thought we would be paid right up un­til the last minute.”

Pet­ti­grew has in­sisted from the be­gin­ning of the con­tro­versy that the back­log

My fam­ily is dev­as­tated. It is the worst Christ­mas and New Year ever. We are scrimp­ing and scrap­ing. I hon­estly thought we would be paid right up un­til the last minute

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