Hospitals forced to store clinical waste and human remains for up to two weeks

NHS hospitals are being forced store clinical waste, including human remains, at their premises for up to a fortnight after a scandal-hit contractor stopped collecting waste.

Extra containers for temporary storage of anatomical, hazardous and other forms of waste have been installed at hospitals across England as part of a national incident response ordered by NHS chiefs, the Health Service Journal reported.

It comes after Healthcare Environmental Services stopped collecting waste last Thursday, the HSJ said.

The Environment Agency has launched a criminal investigation into HES after it was found to have stockpiled up to five times the permitted amount of clinical waste at its depots in July, prompting a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee which agreed a £1 million support package for affected hospitals.

A spokesman for HES told the HSJ the company is no longer collecting waste from the English health service.

Guidance issued to trusts by NHS chiefs, seen and reported by the HSJ, recommended compactors, skips and trailers are installed on-site to store the waste.

The units will store waste such as infectious liquids, cytotoxic and pharmaceutical waste, surgical instruments and sanitary products.

The guidance says anatomical waste, such as amputated limbs or human tissue, should be stored in refrigerated units in a hospital’s mortuary if it is unlikely to be collected by a contractor within 24 hours.

The temporary storage units must be placed on impermeable surfaces such as concrete or asphalt to prevent contamination of surface water.

Health chiefs have given trusts the go-ahead to move their waste to a neighbouring trust if they are unable to store more, the HSJ reported.

Professor Keith Willett, medical director for acute care and emergency preparedness at NHS England, said: “The NHS has contingency plans in place for clinical waste and patients should be assured that their care will be unaffected.”

The Government is reviewing the way the NHS awards contracts for clinical waste management.