Medical waste backlog at failed firm to be cleared

A backlog of hundreds of tonnes of clinical and human waste piled up at a failed disposal firm for the last 12 months is being cleared.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) stopped trading last December after becoming embroiled in a waste stockpiling scandal.

The collapse left about 300 tonnes of waste at the firm’s plant in Shotts, North Lanarkshire.

But now HES liquidator BDO has said work to clear this backlog has begun.

BDO said a licence has been agreed with Cliniwaste Ltd to operate the Shotts site, and two more in Nottingham and Newcastle, with an option for the Glasgow-based firm to also buy them.

Specialist officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency have been working with BDO will oversee the clearance operation.

It comes as BBC Scotland can also reveal the firm appointed to take over the contract to remove waste from every hospital, GP surgery, dental practice and pharmacy in Scotland will not be operating at full capacity until April next year.

Tradebe Healthcare was due to start removing hazardous waste in April this year but this was delayed and the Spanish-owned firm is now implementing the deal on a phased basis.

This means that some NHS contingency measures, which have cost more than the previous contract, will stay in place until then.

Image caption

Waste was pictured piling up at health centres in Coatbridge, Kilsyth and Cumbernauld in January but has since been collected

Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said: “It’s encouraging that steps are now being taken to clear the mountain of stockpiled waste from the Shotts yard.

“The local community has had to endure this blight since 2018 and it’s important the waste is removed quickly and safely.

“The clinical waste scandal has cost the NHS in Scotland millions of pounds and it is staggering that emergency payments to private firms will continue well into 2020.”

Ms Lennon added that it was “hard to see where lessons have been learned” from the saga.

The collapse of HES, which previously had the NHS Scotland waste collection contract, saw 150 workers in Scotland lose their jobs and forced contingency measures to be put in place across the health service.

In the eight months following the collapse of HES these contingency measures cost the taxpayer a total of £14.8m.

By contrast the ten-year deal with Tradebe Healthcare will be worth about £10m a year.

However, the Scottish government has said the higher costs for the contingency measures come as a result of them being put in place at short notice following the collapse of HES.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

About 150 workers in Scotland lost their jobs when HES collapsed, the majority of whom worked at the firm’s headquarters in Shotts

A spokeswoman for BDO said: “The joint liquidators have agreed a licence with Cliniwaste Ltd to operate the Shotts, Newcastle and Nottingham sites.

“This agreement provides an option to purchase after three months. As part of this licence, Cliniwaste Ltd is already on site clearing waste.”

A spokeswoman for NHS National Services Scotland said: “Contingency plans were introduced last year when HES was no longer able to provide waste collection services to NHS boards across Scotland.

“Contingency arrangements will reduce as Tradebe Healthcare implement the new contract on a phased basis until Spring, 2020.

“During the phased introduction, the cost of contingency will decrease, and the amount paid to Tradebe Healthcare will increase because they will be paid for the services they provide.”