Healthcare Environment Services (HES) has been stripped of NHS contracts after hundreds of tonnes of waste from hospitals, including human body parts, was allowed to pile up at its facilities, Health Minister Stephen Barclay has announced.
Amputated limbs and waste material from cancer treatments sent to HES were allowed to build up to unsustainable levels due to a lack of incineration capacity, according to leaked documents seen by the Health Services Journal.
Around 50 NHS trusts are served by HES and an emergency COBRA meeting last month earmarked £1m to provide specialist trailers to store the waste.
In a statement to Parliament, Barclay said NHS Improvement concluded that HES “failed to demonstrate that they were operating within their contractual limits.
“Consequently, 15 NHS Trusts served termination notices to HES formally to terminate their contracts at 4pm on Sunday,” he said.
New arrangements have been made with Mitie to “step in and replace this service” and “NHS services continue to operate as normal”, Barclay told MPs.
Barclay added the Government was first aware of concerns in July.
He said: “On July 31, the Environment Agency notified central Government of an issue concerning clinical waste collection and disposal for hospitals and other public services provided by the company, Healthcare Environmental Services (HES).
“In this instance, the primary concern was that too much waste was being held in a number of waste storage and treatment sites by a contractor, Healthcare Environment Services.
“While the waste was stored securely, it was not being processed and disposed of within the correct regulatory timescales. At no point has there been an impact on public health or any delay to the ability of the NHS to carry out operations.”
He said that following the Environment Agency’s issuing of a partial closure to HES’s Normanton site, NHS Improvement (NHSI) issued a letter to HES and gave the firm 48 hours to provide evidence that they “were operating within legal and contractual parameters and set out a number of threshold levels”.
He said: “NHSI concluded that HES failed to demonstrate that they were operating within their contractual limits.
“Consequently, 15 NHS Trusts served termination notices to HES formally to terminate their contracts at 4pm on Sunday October 7.
“In parallel, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Cabinet Office, NHS Improvement and the affected Trusts have negotiated a new contract with Mitie to step in and replace this service.”
That contract was “fully operational” from Monday morning, he told MPs.