• Dozens of trusts switched waste disposal supplier late last year after company ceased trading
  • New service affecting some trusts’ financial performance
  • One trust says new national provider’s service has been “below what is expected”

Several NHS trusts are grappling with extra costs and relying on temporary containers for clinical waste storage, after a forced change of supplier following last year’s stockpiling scandal.

One trust warned its new contract with replacement provider Mitie could result in an annual cost pressure of £800,000, and said the contractor’s service had been “below what is expected”.

It comes nearly five months after HSJ revealed the government had taken enforcement action against Healthcare Environmental Services, which provided clinical waste management for more than 40 NHS trusts. The company was storing up to five times the permitted amount of waste at its facilities, which included unrefrigerated storage of anatomical waste. It ceased trading in December

The majority of affected trusts were moved onto a new contract with Mitie during the following weeks, but some trusts are now at risk of breaching their control total due to the extra costs, previously reported to be up to three times higher than HES’ price.

In its board papers published at the end of January, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust said Mitie’s “quality and levels of service to date have been below what is expected”.

The trust has given notice to Mitie that it wants to agree an “early termination” of the 12-month contract and also “seek improved financial terms”. Its contract with Mitie expires in December 2019.

According to its board papers, the trust could face an annual cost pressure of £800,000 from the contract, while its costs incurred from establishing contingency arrangements was more than £140,000.

The trust has also been forced to take legal advice after being invoiced nearly £160,000 for the purchase of waste bins from Starryshaw Consultants – a company owned by Garry Pettigrew, the owner of HES.

The trust has not responded to HSJ’s request for comment.

However, a Mitie spokeswoman said: “Mitie took on the clinical waste contract under emergency measures. The commercial agreement reflects the need to mobilise at speed and the current market rate for disposal, not storage as per the previous contractors’ model.

“Backlogs on NHS sites across the UK have been cleared and we are already operating at a normal level. Our current focus is to work with each trust to support them in reducing the cost of the contract.

“These savings will be generated from initiatives including on-site treatment, the deployment of reusable containers, material consolidation and empowering trusts to drive reductions in their waste volumes.”

Meanwhile, other trusts previously served by HES have also experienced financial pressures after changing waste provider.

Monique Bradford, assistant facilities manager at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Trust – which is not on the Mitie contract – told HSJ the trust’s contingency plan had created additional cost pressures.

Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust reported in its January board papers that it had “no ability to cover the money” associated with the extra costs, while a York Teaching Hospital FT spokeswoman said the “significantly higher contract costs are putting pressure on delivery of the control total”.

The trust has already spent £108,000 on contingency plans.

South Tees Hospitals FT said it had spent £45,000 on contingency, though this was not expected to impact on its ability to hit its control total.

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital FT said “there are extra costs and we’re mitigating these costs”. A trust spokeswoman said was “not sure yet” of what the overall impact would be on its control total.

The contingency plans included storage containers provided by the government being installed at trusts until Mitie (or other replacement waste providers) were “running services at 100 per cent” – according to a statement by then health minister Steve Barclay in October last year.

York Teaching Hospital, South Tees Hospitals FT, Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust and Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital FT said they continue to use the temporary storage containers.

Other trusts have not yet responded to HSJ’s request for an update.

Last autumn, the government allocated £1m to deal with the NHS’ contingency plans for the waste disposal problems.

HSJ asked the Department of Health and Social Care if it has spent more than the £1m allocated on the contingency plans, but the DHSC has not yet responded.