• Clinical waste firm Healthcare Environmental Services has ceased operations
  • Company stockpiled thousands of tonnes of clinical waste instead of incrinerating it
  • Trusts moving to new contract with Mitie

The company which stockpiled dozens of NHS trusts’ clinical waste, including human body parts, has ceased operations and made its staff redundant.

Scotland-based Healthcare Environmental Services has made the announcement nearly six months after the Environment Agency launched regulatory action – including a criminal investigation – against the company, as first revealed by HSJ.

HES was found to be stockpiling up to five times the permitted amount of waste at its Normanton site, including anatomical waste from NHS hospitals. Several of its other sites also contained excess waste.

The enforcement action led to HES losing contracts for clinical waste disposal for 15 trusts in Yorkshire and Humber in October. These trusts subsequently switched to a new deal brokered with Mitie, which charged up to three times more for the service.

The scandal has also prompted the government to review the way clinical waste contracts in the NHS are awarded.

Emergency plans were also put in place, which included temporary containers being installed outside hospitals and special dispensations being granted by the Environment Agency and Department for Transport for new contractors to dispose of the waste generated by the affected trusts. This involved transporting waste hundreds of miles in vehicles which would normally not comply with regulations. Consultants from Mott Macdonald were hired to oversee the work

HES blamed its problems on a lack of incineration capacity in the UK, although the government denied this several times in the Commons. However, correspondence revealed by HSJ showed Environment Agency and NHS Improvement officials had concerns about capacity during the summer of 2018.

In December, the Shotts-based company was told its contract with NHS Scotland for the collection and disposal of all NHS clinical waste would not be extended in April this year following a reprocurement.

This prompted the company to halt collections at the remainder of the trusts it served in England, which was thought to be around 25.

It also stopped collecting waste from primary care and other health providers.

On 29 December 2018, the company confirmed its staff would be made redundant and that it had “ceased operations”. The number of staff affected is unknown, but thought to be in the hundreds. 

HES’ managing director Garry Pettigrew said: “We have tried so hard over the last few months to keep going but we’ve now reached the position where this is no longer tenable.”

HSJ asked HES to confirm if the company has been liquidated but has not yet received a response.