If you have old hospital equipment to dispose of, the question is what to do next. While in the past, hospital managers paid to recycle surplus items or returned them to manufacturers to refurbish and sell on, there is now an emphasis on reusing equipment.

The Department of Health’s current advice is: “Waste (should) be reviewed for its resource value and potential.” Given the NHS produces 250,000 tonnes of waste a year, extending the life of equipment is clearly greener. It is also more profitable.

Buyers from all over the world are interested in NHS equipment. Many hospital managers choose to turn to specialist medical auction houses, to clear and sell goods from hospitals.

There are a variety of ways to sell assets depending on type. Tenders or private treaty sales suit valuable assets such as radiography equipment, plant and machinery. Auctions however, are better for portable equipment that can be easily transported to the sale rooms and buyers may often view the auction from overseas.

Onsite auctions are best when a trust is closing a hospital and wants to dispose of large quantities of furniture and cheaper items. The obvious advantage to the seller is that the buyers must remove the goods directly from the site.

John McGinty, trust equipment manager from Great Western Hospital, Swindon, says: “It’s in the interest of the public purse to try and gain value from reusing or recycling.” Mr McGinty says he has no room to store any excess equipment or furniture. Each quarter the hospital builds up a collection of things that they try to redeploy internally. After that, they assess with their auction partner what is saleable and arrange to scrap the remainder.

Mike Hilditch of specialist medical auction house the Hilditch Group says it has been a long journey to convince hospitals not to throw good equipment away. 

Advantages of selling redundant equipment:

  • Managers can generate an additional revenue stream for the hospital.
  • Some of the original purchase costs can be offset by sale of these assets at a later date. 
  • A buoyant second user market ensures residual values remain high, making lease equipment cheaper to finance.
  • Users in the developing world can benefit from hi-tech equipment at a fraction of the ‘new’ price.
  • European and UK buyers can access spare parts for existing equipment, thus keeping them in commission longer.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment legislation

What is WEEE and who is affected by the regulations? 

  • WEEE is any piece of waste electrical or electronic equipment.
  • Some WEEE such as cathode ray tubes (televisions), nickel-cadmium batteries and fluorescent tubes are also hazardous.
  • Where WEEE is hazardous, handling and disposal is covered by the hazardous waste regulations. All other WEEE is covered by the WEEE regulations. 

What are the implications for business of the WEEE regulations? 

  • You must store, transport and dispose or recycle your WEEE separately from other waste streams you produce.
  • If the electrical and electronic equipment that you need to dispose of was manufactured before 13 August 2005, you will have to pay for the disposal via an authorised facility from 1 July 2007 onwards, although some charges are already in place.
  • If your waste EEE was manufactured after 13 August 2005 and you are replacing the old EEE with a new item, your supplier is responsible for offering a disposal scheme. The supplier will charge for this service.