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17.10.18

Government questions whether scandal-hit waste company was ‘willing’ to pay for extra incinerator space

The government has rejected claims by the boss of a scandal-hit medical waste removal company that a lack of incinerator capacity led to the missing of disposal targets, and questioned whether the company was willing to pay for the extra capacity to meet deadlines.

In a statement to the Commons yesterday, junior health minister Stephen Barclay reinforced the government’s claim that there is sufficient incinerator capacity for clinical waste, and that the statement made to the House on 9 October was correct.

The announcement comes after the managing director of Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), Garry Pettigrew, claimed that his company had been “vilified” after the waste removal company was stripped of its NHS contracts following reports that tonnes of hospital waste – including body parts – had been piled up at its facilities.

Pettigrew blamed the missing of disposal targets on a “major drop” in incinerator capacity since 2015. The main concern was that waste was being held in a number of waste storage and treatment sites by the contract. Whilst the waste was stored securely, it was not being processed and disposed of within the correct regulatory timescales.

Yesterday the government hit back at the claims of a lack of incinerator capacity by HES as something which “should not be taken at face value,” and stood by its original suggestion that sufficient incinerator space was available.

“By the time of my statement on 9 October, far more due diligence had been conducted on the claims made by Healthcare Environmental Services,” the junior health minister said.

“Analysis carried out by NHSI identified 2,269 tonnes of incinerator capacity in October. The trusts served by Healthcare Environmental Services produced 595 tonnes. The analysis shows that there is sufficient incinerator capacity for clinical waste and that the statement made to the House was therefore correct.”

Barclay went on to say that Mitie – the outsourced facilities management company contracted to take over the NHS contracts – has secured 1,000 tonnes of capacity, thus refuting Pettigrew’s claims.

Barclay then questioned whether HES had been willing to pay for the extra space.

“The issue is whether HES is willing to pay for that capacity. The fact that Mitie has secured 1,000 tonnes of incinerator capacity demonstrates that it is available,” he said.

The managing director of HES Pettigrew, however, noted that the additional incinerator capacity Barclay referred to was only sourced after the Environmental Agency — who has launched a criminal investigation over the excess waste — granted a temporary permit to another waste management company, Grundon.

Of the 17 trusts who ditched contracts with HES, three have had the stock of waste on their sites cleared, with 12 due to have theirs cleared by the end of the week and two remaining as Mitie mobilises from around 80% of service delivery to full delivery in the coming weeks.

There is no risk to public safety through the action taken by the trusts. All trusts have been able to maintain services throughout the stripping of contracts.

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Image credit: Lucinda Cameron, PA Images

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