An NHS investigation has found there is ample incineration capacity for clinical waste, health minister Stephen Barclay has told Parliament, after allegations to the contrary from a contractor.
Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), which had contracts for 15 NHS trusts terminated after stockpiles including clinical waste were found, has said there is a lack of clinical incineration capacity, a claim denied by the Environment Agency.
Barclay told Parliament in a response to shadow health and care secretary Jonathan Ashworth that claims by HES about a lack of incinerator capacity “should not be taken at face value”.
The minister said: “Analysis carried out by NHS Improvement identified 2,269 tonnes of incinerator capacity in October. The trusts served by HES produced 595 tonnes. The analysis shows that there is sufficient incinerator capacity for clinical waste.”
He added: “The issue is whether HES is willing to pay for that capacity. The fact that [replacement contractor] Mitie has secured 1,000 tonnes of incinerator capacity demonstrates that it is available.”
Mitie was working closely with the NHS and trusts had contingency storage in place to be used until it could meet all the required waste collection frequencies.
“There is no risk to public safety through the action taken by the trusts,” Barclay added.
Ashworth told MPs he had seen photographs of waste left at a health centre in Keighley, and “that hospital staff in Leeds are shifting waste in inappropriate overalls, that hazardous waste at Dewsbury is being stored in inappropriate shipping containers, and that up to 15 trusts across Yorkshire are storing waste illegally”.
He also called for an assurance that the incinerators being used were large enough to manage the volume of clinical waste.
Barclay said that of the 17 trusts affected – two of which dispensed with HES after the initial 15 – “three have had the stock of waste on their sites cleared and 12 are due to have theirs cleared by the end of the week, with two remaining, as Mitie mobilises from around 80% of service delivery now to 100% in the coming weeks”.
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