Tonnes of clinical waste including amputated limbs stockpiled by waste management firm

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
The Environment Agency has worked with HES to ensure the small proportion of anatomical waste has been stored in refrigerated units within the confines of the facility

Tonnes of clinical waste including amputated limbs and infectious liquids has been stockpiled by Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), sparking an emergency meeting of the government’s COBRA committee.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock chaired the meeting and ordered £1m to be earmarked to help the 50 NHS Trusts with HES contracts, a HSJ investigation has revealed.

Excess waste levels reached 350 tonnes in September, five times more than the waste company’s 70 tonne limit.

The Department for Health and Social Care said there was no risk to public safety.

The Environment Agency (EA) has worked with HES to ensure the small proportion of anatomical waste has been stored in refrigerated units within the confines of the facility.

Despite no current interruptions to waste collections, emergency contingency plans agreed by the Cabinet Office have been put into place.

Over the past year, the EA has made a number of attempts to get HES to bring sites back into compliance, including regular inspections, warnings, and enforcement notices.

A government spokesperson said: “Our priority is to prevent disruption to the NHS and other vital public services and work is underway to ensure organisations can continue to dispose of their waste safely and efficiently.”

HES declined to speak to RWW and instead issued a statement.

“Healthcare Environmental has highlighted the reduction in the UK’s high-temperature incineration capacity for the last few years. This is down to the ageing infrastructure, prolonged breakdowns and the reliance on zero waste to landfill policies, taking up the limited high-temperature incineration capacity in the market.”

“Over the last year, this reduced incineration capacity has been evident across all of the industry and has affected all companies.

"Healthcare Environmental has been in discussion with the environmental regulators and has consistently highlighted these issues, whilst we have maintained service to all our clients.

“There has been no disruption to our customers’ services whilst we have been dealing with this issue.”

Grundon Waste Management, which runs a High Temperature Incinerator in Colnbrook near Slough, has been drafted in by HES to resolve the issue.


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