The steps the NHS is taking to tackle waste disposal problems


The National Health Service in the UK has been negatively affected by the growing amount of stockpiled environmental waste at many of its locations. Around 50 sites across the UK have been struggling to dispose of various items, including used needles and body parts which have not been disposed of correctly for months.

The issue came to light with reports of huge stockpiles of waste the Healthcare Environmental Services group was contracted to dispose of. HES eventually ceased trading at a cost of 450 jobs following news of the stockpiled waste breaking, leaving around 50 locations struggling to dispose of waste in the correct way.

The use of a new framework

Following the collapse of Healthcare Environmental Services, the umbrella company, Mitie was employed to contract independent companies to complete the removal of the backlog of waste and all new waste products. This was seen as a stopgap solution and was followed by the introduction of a new framework for the NHS and other public sector groups.

Under the leadership of the NHS Shared Business Services department, bids for contracts to cover various aspects of the environmental waste services were invited which would be shared under a new program. Known as the “Waste Management and Minimization Services framework identified six key areas of waste disposal and recycling which would be shared with other public sector agencies in the UK to ensure all contractors were legally compliant.

New Guidelines

The collapse of Healthcare Environmental Services has been embraced as a chance to change the way waste disposal and recycling services are supplied to the NHS. The new guidelines divided this sector into six areas of clinical waste, reusable sharps, sanitary and washroom, domestic waste, confidential waste destruction, and total waste management.

The new guidelines allow for at least two contractors to be contracted to each area with details of their cost and service available to the NHS and their public sector partners. This new level of transparency is hoped to make major changes to the way waste is disposed of and ensure similar problems to those seen with Healthcare Environmental Services do not occur again.

Moving forward with many contractors

The bidding process has already identified a number of vendors who have either been approved for working with the NHS and its partners or are moving on to the next stage of authentication. As the NHS moves forward with the process, the next step is to create a database of vendors offering single services and others capable of bundling various services to provide the best value-for-money.