Staff made redundant at clinical waste firm after backlog controversy

Hundreds of staff have been made redundant at a disposal company facing a probe over a pile-up of waste from the health service.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) became embroiled in a clinical waste stockpiling controversy earlier this year with the NHS, and it denied claims that human body parts were among items caught up in a backlog at its sites.

The company, based in North Lanarkshire, had contracts with the NHS in England and Scotland but it informed staff at its Shotts depot on Thursday that it is to cease trading.

HES is thought to employ 150 people in Shotts and 350 across the UK.

A letter from HES managing director Garry Pettigrew said: "I apologise that there have been no previous consultations on this matter, however there are unforeseen circumstances that have proven to be outwith our control."

HES had said a shortage of incinerators led to the backlog problem and it blamed "unfair Government pressure" on the business for the redundancy notices.

The letter, which was shared on social media, claimed a bank had withheld funds "due to pressure from political and market perception of our company".

It read: "As a company, we have been exploring all avenues, both politically and commercially, through enterprise schemes and sales of parts and the whole of the business to try to secure the future of the employees and the company.

"We have been given no assistance at any time, from the politicians or enterprise bodies in England or Scotland, we have been unable to resolve matters, and accordingly the company will cease trading on December 27, 2018."

In November, HES said it was to sue the NHS organisations which terminated their contracts.

The Environment Agency had previously said the firm was found to be in breach of permits at four of its six sites in England which deal with clinical waste, and a criminal investigation was launched.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency also previously confirmed it had issued enforcement notices at sites in Dundee and Shotts.

In the redundancy notice, HES said it was unable to make payments but it directed staff to the Redundancy Payment Service to claim money owed.

Mr Pettigrew's letter said: "The company very much regrets that it has become necessary to make redundancies and that you have been affected.

"I would like to offer my sincere apology in this regard and to thank you for your hard work and contribution to the company during your employment."

Airdrie and Shotts SNP MP Neil Gray said: "It seems clear that this situation could have been avoided but actions at a UK Government level have made it unavoidable.

"It is time UK ministers took some responsibility and also agreed to an independent inquiry into their handling of this whole affair.

"Alex Neil MSP and I have already written to the Scottish and UK governments asking for urgent intervention."