Jeane Freeman: clinical waste backlog still being cleared after HES collapse

Written by Tom Freeman on 24 January 2019 in News

Collapse of clinical waste firm Healthcare Environment Services has cost the Scottish Government £1.4m

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Bags of clinical waste backed up at hospitals and GP surgeries are being cleared as the Scottish Government deals with the fallout from the collapse of Healthcare Environment Scotland (HES), health secretary Jeane Freeman has told MSPs.

The Shotts and Dundee-based company was stripped of its NHS contracts in Scotland and England in October after clinical waste – including human body parts - was found to be piling up at its facilities. The company blamed a lack of available incinerators.

It then ceased trading in December, leaving staff without their December salaries. This meant it could not fulfil outstanding contracts.

Freeman told MSPs NHS National Services Scotland and NHS boards were “acting quickly” to resolve issues, but the situation had endangered services and cost £1,4m.

“Scotland’s health services were placed at risk as a result of HES breaching its contract,” she said.

“Contingency arrangements that were developed in anticipation of such an eventuality—in consultation with NSS, SEPA and a range of other partners—ensured that there was no disruption to front-line services.”

This includes transporting Scottish clinical waste to England for incineration.

SEPA is monitoring the waste at the HES sites to ensure there is no risk to the public, she added.

Freeman said a new £10m contract to handle clinical waste in Scotland would  be awarded to a different company, but Scottish Labour urged her to consider keeping the service in-house.

Leader Richard Leonard said: “The Scottish Government should pause the process and look at the option of in-sourcing the service, to safeguard these jobs, and state of the art facilities in Scotland and ensure full public accountability and ownership in the future.”

Business and fair work minister Jamie Hepburn is pursuing HES on behalf of former employees to ensure they get paid, Freeman said.

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