Public Health

10.01.19

Body parts and toxic waste still piled up at abandoned medical base

The state of the abandoned medical base of the disposal firm at the centre of the NHS waste stockpiling scandal has been revealed, with body parts and clinical waste remaining piled up and untreated on the site since it stopped trading in December.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) ceased operations last month after it was stripped of its NHS contracts, leaving the firm’s Benton headquarters in Newcastle disused.

A former Newcastle-based employee took photos over the course of several months which show tonnes of clinical, pharmaceutical, and surgical waste still locked up at HES’s base.

Staff told Chronicle Live that fridges are still packed with human remains from surgical training, including heads, torsos, arms and legs, and pallets were stacked on top of one another with waste collected over several months.


The Environmental Agency (EA) launched a criminal investigation after the company was found to be storing human body parts five times over their permitted limit, with this major breach of its permit leading to HES being stripped of 15 of its NHS contracts.

The managing director of HES, Garry Pettigrew, claimed at the time that his company had been “vilified for providing an excellent service” and blames a UK-wide shortage of high-temperature incineration facilities for the issues that led to the failures, a claim which the government has denied.

Workers were not paid their most recent wages, and last week HES confirmed that it had ceased its operations fully after making 400 staff redundant – although the company had no money to pay for the redundancies.

The former employee said the Benton site had not been cleared since the firm’s collapse and remains full of clinical pharmaceutical and surgical waste – some of which is deemed highly infectious and toxic.

The centre’s fridge contains 770-litre bins, with an estimated 60 bins worth of clinical waste still “lying around,” with the employee even claiming that flies were being attracted to the rotting waste.

The EA said HES remained in breach of its environmental permits at the base and clinical waste treatment and transfer station. It commented: “We have taken a range of action against the company but it has repeatedly breached permits and continued to operate unlawfully.

“As a result, in addition to our enforcement activity to clear the sites, we are undertaking a criminal investigation.

Image credit - Lucinda Cameron

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