• Consultants hired to help NHS response to clinical waste scandal
  • More than 40 trusts using national contingency plans
  • Regulator says plans have prevented “serious impact” on patients

NHS Improvement has hired consultants from Mott Macdonald to help NHS trusts and primary care staff whose facilities have lost their clinical waste disposal provider, HSJ has learned.

At least 10 specialists from the consultancy have been drafted in to work alongside outsourcing giant Mitie in a “logistics cell” set up to help the dozens of trusts which held contracts with Healthcare Environmental Services.

HES stopped collecting waste from 24 trusts two weeks ago. The company faced growing financial pressures after it was stripped of contracts with 17 trusts in Yorkshire in October due to the company storing waste above permitted levels.

NHSI confirmed it had established a “team of logistics and industry experts to coordinate the safe and compliant collection of waste from NHS organisations in the short-term”, with some “additional expertise” needing to be brought in.

Details of the cell were part of an internal information pack issued by NHSI on 16 December, of which HSJ has obtained a copy.

The pack, which includes information about the contingency plans enacted earlier this month when HES stopped collecting waste from the trusts, also sets out where each affected trust’s waste will be sent.

The information pack includes details of 24 trusts which run a total of 34 hospitals.

Waste from these facilities is now being collected by several logistics companies hired by outsourcing giant Mitie, who have taken over contractual obligations for the trusts affected.

HSJ has previously reported special dispensation was given by the Department for Transport to enable the logistics companies to transport the waste, while the Environment Agency has also allowed an incineration plant to dispose of the waste despite it not usually being licensed to do so.

An NHSI spokesman said services to patients would “undoubtedly have been seriously impacted” without the response team being established.

“This situation was created by HES who did not fully meet their regulatory responsibilities and subsequently failed without warning to make waste collections across a number of NHS organisations,” the spokesman added.

What are the plans?

Most of the affected trusts are in the far north of England, ranging from Cumbria, Northumberland, and Teeside.

Their non-hazardous (offensive) waste, most of which would have previously been treated at HES’ Newcastle site, is being taken to a facility run by Suez UK in Billingham, near Middlesbrough.

This waste will be treated in a way that generates energy through an energy-from-waste process.

The trusts’ clinical waste, which includes hazardous waste – such as human body parts, medicines, bandages and gloves – will be disposed of at sites in Leeds, Oldham, Bolton, and Wrexham, run by Tradebe and Stericycle.

Other affected trusts outside the north include Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, Wye Valley, Whittington, Buckinghamshire Healthcare, East and North Hertfordshire, and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals.

Their waste will be taken to a range of disposal sites run by Grundon, Medisort, Clinipower, and Stericycle.

The logistics companies involved in the collection and transportation of waste are; Hargreaves, Knights, Nestons, Initial, PHS, Biffa, Mick George, Cumbria Waste, Sharpsmart, and Bywaters/Grundon.

The plans do not state where the waste from the 17 Yorkshire and Humber trusts is being sent.