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09.10.18

Waste company stripped of 15 NHS contracts after body parts piled up at facilities

A waste removal company has been stripped of its NHS contracts after NHS Improvement (NHSI) confirmed that hundreds of tonnes of hospital waste — including human body parts — had been piled up at its facilities.

Health minister Stephen Barclay announced in Parliament today that arrangements have been made to replace services provided by Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), a company which removes waste from several hospitals in England and Scotland.

Last week the Environment Agency said that HES had breached its permits at five sites and launched a criminal investigation over the “excess waste.”

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.

Following the Environment Agency’s issuing of a partial closure to HES’s Normanton site on 3 October, NHSI issued a letter to HES to advise the company of concerns in respect of services provided to trusts.

The regulator gave HES 48 hours to provide evidence that it was operating within legal and contractual parameters and set out a number of threshold levels – but NHSI ultimately concluded that HES failed to demonstrate it was operating within the limits.

Fifteen NHS trusts served termination notices to HES formally to terminate their contracts at 4pm on 7 October.

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.

“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.”

The Environment Agency is taking enforcement action against HES to clear the excess waste from its sites and bring the company back into compliance with its permit. The agency is also progressing with enforcement action with other non-compliant sites as well as Normanton, including following up the first enforcement notice for the HES Newcastle site – with partial suspension “likely” if the site does not become compliant.

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