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Waste firm seeks £15m in damages over terminated NHS contracts

The disposal company at the centre of the NHS clinical waste scandal has announced that it is suing 17 NHS trusts in Yorkshire after they terminated its contracts.

Healthcare Environment Services (HES) are pursuing upwards of £15m in damages from the trusts it says unlawfully terminated its contracts in response to reports that tonnes of clinical waste piled up at its sites.

The Environment Agency has launched a criminal investigation into the company, but HES’s managing director claimed that they had been “vilified” and denied suggestions it had mismanaged its services.

HES became embroiled in a clinical waste controversy after it was found to be storing waste, including human body parts, over five times their permit level, and was breaching its permit at four of its six England sites which deal with clinical waste.

When this came to light, HES was stripped of 15 NHS contracts, and health minister Stephen Barclay told parliament that NHS Improvement had concluded that HES had “failed to demonstrate that they were operating within their contractual limits.”

Garry Pettigrew, the managing director of HES, defended his company from claims of mismanagement and said they had been “vilified for providing an excellent service.”

He said that the pile-ups were due to a “major drop” in incinerator capacity since 2015 and has now said: "We feel that we have been left with no choice but to take legal action against the trusts after the terms of the agreed contracts were broken.”

The government rejected Pettigrew’s claims regarding incinerator capacity and questioned whether the company was willing to pay for the extra capacity to meet deadlines.

Outsourcing company Mitie has stepped in to take over the contracts, and had secured 1,000 tonnes of capacity according to the government, refuting Pettigrew’s claims.

HES still has contracts with more than 30 other trusts in England, and maintains all its Scotland contracts.

 Image credit - Lucinda Cameron/PA Wire/PA Images

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