Scotland

NHS waste: Healthcare Environmental Services' future in doubt

HES HQ Image copyright Reuters
Image caption HES is based in Shotts, North Lanarkshire

A company, which collects clinical waste from every hospital in Scotland, said it has had to withdraw its services because of cash flow problems.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) previously lost 17 contracts with NHS trusts in England, and a criminal inquiry was launched into a build up of waste at some of its depots.

The company claims its reputation has been destroyed by the UK government.

It has now been informed it will lose its NHS Scotland contract in April.

Today the company said its banking facilities had been cut off.

Image caption The firm also has a depot in Dundee

Based in Shotts, North Lanarkshire, the company has responsibility for disposing of clinical waste from every hospital, GP's surgery, dental practice and pharmacy in Scotland.

It has a transfer station for waste in Dundee as well as the storage, processing and incineration site in Shotts.

The Scottish government said its contingency plans would ensure clinical waste continued to be disposed of safely.

A spokeswoman for NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) said: "NSS has procured storage, collection and treatment services for those health boards not receiving the service provision they require from Healthcare Environmental Services Ltd for the collection of clinical waste."

An HES spokesman confirmed that they had not collected any waste from NHS Scotland sites today because of the company's financial problems.

He added: "We are waiting to hear from the NHS. We have had no contact with them. We can't operate with no bank facilities."

'Destroyed'

Garry Pettigrew, the managing director of HES, told the BBC earlier that his company had been having financial difficulties.

He said: "Our banking facilities have went through the process of obviously being run predominantly from London.

"We had a very supportive bank, we still have a bank. Obviously our banking facilities this week have got to the point where our creditors for the last nine weeks have been very unsure but that's really led to a flood of people being paid up front which obviously we've had to manage that.

"Managing that has led to the bank running out of patience on that and saying they can't see an out on this and ultimately for the last week we've had no banking facilities.

"The reality from our point of view is if we don't have a bank and banking security we couldn't survive.

"From the staff's point we are trying to find ways, if it's an option, of finding a buyer. The problem for finding a buyer is we are now a brand that the government has destroyed.

"Long term, we have lost contracts that should never have been terminated.

"The reason why we would suggest we have lost the pan-Scotland contract is because again our brand has been tarnished and this is all coming from the highest level."

Image copyright Reuters

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency in England said it had found HES to be in breach of environmental permits at five sites which deal with clinical waste.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) also confirmed that it issued enforcement notices at sites in Dundee and Shotts, where its officers are conducting "ongoing monitoring".

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said in October: "We are taking enforcement action against the operator, which includes clearance of the excess waste, and have launched a criminal investigation.

"We are supporting the government and the NHS to ensure there is no disruption to public services and for alternative plans to be put in place for hospitals affected to dispose of their waste safely."

Sepa said it was working closely with the Environment Agency and "robustly monitoring sites in Scotland".

It added that the company had not gone over its agreed regulatory limits for either of the two Scottish sites.

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