A clinical waste disposal firm has been stripped of its NHS contracts after hundreds of tonnes of hospital waste, including human body parts, was allowed to pile up at its facilities.
Speaking in the Commons, health minister Stephen Barclay announced Healthcare Environmental Services has been served with termination notices by 15 NHS trusts.
It follows a report by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), which said said one HES site held excess waste five times its capacity, equalling 350 tonnes including infectious fluids, amputated limbs and substances from cancer treatments.
HSJ reported that an emergency government meeting was called over the stockpiling last month, and contingency plans were put in place for NHS trusts and other public services.
“I can confirm that NHS services continue to operate as normal,” Mr Barclay said.
“We are ensuring that there are contingency plans in place in case of any disruption, and that there is absolutely no risk to the health of patients or the wider public.”
The government first became aware of concerns about the firm in July, Mr Barclay said.
He said: “On July 31, the Environment Agency notified central government of an issue concerning clinical waste collection and disposal for hospitals and other public services provided by the company, Healthcare Environmental Services (HES).
“In this instance, the primary concern was that too much waste was being held in a number of waste storage and treatment sites by a contractor, Healthcare Environment Services.
“While the waste was stored securely, it was not being processed and disposed of within the correct regulatory timescales.
“At no point has there been an impact on public health or any delay to the ability of the NHS to carry out operations.”
Following the partial closure of HES’s site in Normanton, West Yorkshire, the firm was given 48 hours by NHS Improvement to provide evidence it was “operating within legal and contractual parameters and set out a number of threshold levels”.
Mr Barclay told MPs: “NHSI concluded that HES failed to demonstrate that they were operating within their contractual limits.
“Consequently, 15 NHS Trusts served termination notices to HES formally to terminate their contracts at 4pm on Sunday October 7.
“In parallel, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Cabinet Office, NHS Improvement and the affected Trusts have negotiated a new contract with Mitie to step in and replace this service.”
The contract with Mitie was “fully operational” from first thing on Monday, the minister added.
At the time HSJ’s report was published, HES said it had highlighted a “reduction in the UK’s high-temperature incineration capacity” – a problem it blamed on ageing infrastructure, prolonged breakdowns and zero waste-to-landfill policies.
The reduced capacity had been “evident across all of the industry” during the last year, it said.
Previous problems between HES and the government were revealed in a letter, seen by Sky News and sent last month to NHS trusts, that said the action against the company was a “witch-hunt” based on “complete lies”.
The letter, signed by the company’s managing director Garry Pettigrew, claimed there had been problems with Britain’s high temperature incineration infrastructure for years and that the Environment Agency had failed to adequately respond.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency, however, rejected the accusations.
From – SkyNews