Criminal investigation launched after medical waste build up

ANALYSISOctober 5 2018 12:00pm The Times Hospital waste is even more confusing than sorting your recyclingnew Chris Smyth Health Editor

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: 'The Environment Agency has found Health Environmental Services to be in breach of its environmental permits at five sites which deal with clinical waste.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) also confirmed that it issued enforcement notices at sites in Dundee and Shotts last month, where its officers are conducting "ongoing monitoring".

But a spokesperson for Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Calderdale Royal Hospital, Halifax, and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, said waste collection was continuing.

"The amount of anatomical waste we collect in England each week only amounts to 1% of the overall tonnage of waste collected".

HES, which made a £15.4m profit past year, claims that the UK's "ageing incinerators and strict disposal policies" make it impossible to keep up with demand, leading to a "signifiant amount of excess waste being stored at its sites", The Independent says.

"We were made aware of this issue, and have put in place contingency arrangements in the event that the company are unable to continue with their contracted service".

With pressure building on the government, the Labour MP Yvette Cooper asked why parliament had not been told that the health secretary, Matt Hancock, chaired a Cobra committee meeting last month amid concern about a potential health hazard over the firm's failure to get rid of the waste. "This is down to the ageing infrastructure, prolonged breakdowns and the reliance on zero-waste-to-landfill policies, taking up the limited high-temperature incineration capacity in the market".

We are taking enforcement action against the operator to clear the excess waste from their sites and bring the company back into compliance with their permits.

"There has been no disruption to our customers' services whilst we have been dealing with this issue".

A criminal inquiry has been launched after it was found that tonnes of waste, including amputated limbs were not being disposed of properly, reported the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said there was "absolutely no risk" to public health. A criminal investigation has now been launched, the Environment Agency said.

A United Kingdom government spokesman said it was monitoring the situation closely and had made sure that public services - including NHS Trusts - had contingency plans in place.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health at public services trade union Unison, described the news as "simply horrific", saying it was "unlikely that such a distressing situation would have happened had the service remained in-house..."

The affected sites included a plant at Normanton - in Cooper's constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford - where the waste was reported to have been five times more than HES's permitted level.

This is five times more than the company's 70 tonne limit, and a small proportion of it is believed to have been human body parts.

The company said it has been warning the authorities for years that "ageing infrastructure" and "prolonged breakdowns" mean that firms which dispose of clinical waste can not get through it quickly enough.

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