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12.10.18

NHS waste scandal: Boss says company has been ‘vilified’ and denies mismanagement

The boss of the waste disposal company at the centre of an NHS scandal for stockpiling medical waste, including body parts, has told the BBC his company has been “vilified” and denied suggestions that it mismanaged its services.

The managing director of Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), the firm at the heart of this week’s scandal, Garry Pettigrew, argued that his company had been “vilified for providing an excellent service.”

It was confirmed by NHS Improvement earlier this month that HES had been stockpiling hospital waste – including human body parts – and that it had piled up at its facilities.

Pettigrew blamed this on a “major drop” in incinerator capacity since 2015. However, health minister Stephen Barclay claimed there was “significant” additional incineration capacity.

The company boss emphasised that “at every part of this we have been talking to the Environment Agency. We thought they would be able to help.”

Since the scandal came to light, the company has had 15 of its NHS trust contracts terminated and a criminal investigation has been launched by the Environment Agency after HES failed to prove to NHSI that it was operating within legal and contractual parameters.

The primary concern was that too much waste was being held in a number of waste storage and treatment sites by the contractor; whilst the waste was stored securely, it was not being processed and disposed of within the correct regulatory timescales. At no point, however, had there been an impact on public health or any delay to the ability of the NHS to carry out operations.

The health minister said that the Department of Health and Social Care, the Cabinet Office, NHSI, and the affected trusts have put in place a new contract with cleaning organisation Mitie, which has been fully operational across all affected trust sites from Monday morning.

“Throughout, the government’s priority has been to ensure measures were put in in place so that NHS trusts can continue operating as normal. No gap in service provision has been reported and we are working to ensure that this remains the case,” Barclay told MPs in Parliament.

“I can confirm that NHS services continue to operate as normal. 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 is working with the Environment Agency and NHS to ensure lessons are learnt, and we are reviewing how contracts will be awarded in the future.”

 

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