The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Waste not, want not

It’s been nearly seven months since a significant portion of the NHS was hit by problems at a major clinical waste company, but – in the words of one expert – “it’s now the fun begins”.

Michael Taylor, managing director of waste management at Mitie, has been busy since the stockpiling scandal came to light last October.

His team was given a weekend to sort out new clinical waste management services for 17 trusts in Yorkshire and the north east, after the government’s patience with Healthcare Environmental Services ran out.

While much has been written in the media, including HSJ, about the saga, less has been said about how the NHS should manage its waste in the future.

Mr Taylor is unequivocal: The NHS needs to segregate its different types of waste much better. Companies seeking to win business in the sector should incentivise such behaviour.

But the challenge to deliver this is massive, as it requires a culture change across hospital wards and theatres.

Meanwhile, work to eradicate the backlogs of waste outside hospitals continues. Although Mr Taylor was confident this would be achieved by early May, much waste – likely to be more than a thousand tonnes’ worth – still remains in HES’ warehouses across the country.

Ploughing on

Baroness Dido Harding may have dashed hopes that the forthcoming interim workforce implementation plan will include hard figures on shortages and workforce demand in a recent speech at the Royal College of Physicians annual conference.

According to Baroness Harding, the NHS has spent too much time guessing how many tractors it needs, rather than looking at the bigger picture.

She emphasised the interim plan’s focus on devolving workforce planning to local areas, but made clear the modelling would not go as far as setting out how many cardiologists “we will need in Scunthorpe in 10 years’ time”. 

How could Health Education England have been expected to succeed at such a task, Baroness Harding argued. It was unsurprising they got it wrong.

“A bit of planning might not have gone amiss” was the general consensus from HSJ commenters – but another argument put forward was that the workforce crisis needs innovation, something the NHS is not notoriously good at.

Whether we’re talking about tractors or cardiologists, local systems best be gearing up to work out their own models.