Environmental permit breach costs waste firm NHS contract

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) has been found in breach of environmental permits by the Environment Agency.

The company was contracted by the NHS to dispose of clinical waste, but has been stripped of its contract after stockpiling hundreds of tonnes of human body parts. Leaked NHS England memos revealed amputated limbs, infectious liquids, refuse linked to cancer treatment and other hazardous materials had been allowed to build up at its five waste handling sites. One site in Normanton reached excess waste levels of 350 tonnes in September – five times its limit of 70 tonnes.

In a statement to parliament, health minister Stephen Barclay said that HES “failed to demonstrate that they were operating within their contractual limits. Consequently, 15 NHS Trusts served termination notices to HES formally to terminate their contracts.”

New arrangements have been made with Mitie to “step in and replace this service”, and “NHS services continue to operate as normal”, Mr Barclay told MPs.

The Agency formally notified the government on 31 July that it was concerned too much waste was being stored at some HES sites. Although the waste was being stored securely, it was not being processed and disposed of within the correct timescales. It stressed that “at no point has there been any impact on public health or any delay to the ability of the NHS to carry out operations”.

An Agency spokeswoman said: “We are taking enforcement action against the operator, which includes clearance of the excess waste, and have launched a criminal investigation.”

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency is working with the Agency and robustly monitoring HES sites in Scotland, but said the company had not gone over its agreed regulatory limits.

Image credit | iStock
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