Further delay over Scotland's clinical waste disposal

Gloved hand binning a syringe Image copyright Getty Images

The company tasked with solving Scotland's clinical waste crisis has not yet secured planning permission for a treatment site.

Spanish-owned Tradebe Healthcare was due to start removing hazardous waste, including human remains, on 2 August.

However, it is still waiting to get planning permission for a plant in Belshill, North Lanarkshire.

A North Lanarkshire Council spokesman said its decision would be made known in August.

He added that air quality and noise assessments were being carried out.

Tradebe Healthcare is set to dispose of medical waste from every hospital, GP surgery, dental practice and pharmacy in Scotland.

Until it is given planning permission it can only remove a limited amount of the overall waste streams.

It is the second delay to hit the firm, which was originally supposed to begin full collections on 1 April.

Scottish Labour has questioned why a functioning storage, processing and incineration site is lying unused in Shotts, about 12 miles away.

It is owned by scandal-hit Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), which stopped collections last December after too much clinical waste built up at its sites.

Labour's shadow health secretary Monica Lennon said: "The clinical waste scandal is literally the biggest mess to affect Scotland's NHS and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has let the rubbish pile up and the cost to the taxpayer to soar.

"We've had almost a year of dithering and a purpose-built waste plant approved by the Scottish government is lying empty in Lanarkshire.

"The Scottish government clearly needs to bring in expert help as they clearly have no plan to fix this crisis."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Scottish Labour has questioned why the HES site in Shotts can not be used

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman wrote to the health and sport committee on Monday saying: "Contingency arrangements will continue for at least the next three months until Tradebe are in a position to commence the national contract in full."

Contractors are currently collecting more than £460,000 per week to carry out contingency plans - more than double the rate charged by HES, which went into liquidation in April after operating for 23 years.

In May, Ms Freeman said hospital waste from Scotland was to be sent to Wrexham in Wales for disposal following the collapse of HES.

This included "yellow bag" hospital waste, containing sharp materials such as syringes. "Orange bag" waste, including items contaminated with bodily fluids, was also to be initially sent there.

Former HES boss Garry Pettigrew has maintained the build-up at HES sites was because of a lack of incineration capacity in the country.

He attacked the awarding of the 10-year, £100m contract to Tradebe, labelling it a "Spanish company that hasn't got a clue and doesn't even have any facilities".

Mr Pettigrew has called for an inquiry into the collapse of his business.

'Labour objections'

A spokesman for Ms Freeman said: "We are clear that all health boards must store and dispose of all categories of waste in a safe and appropriate fashion.

"Not all services can be delivered until Tradebe's site has planning permission and regulatory permits are in place.

"In May, after the 28-day public consultation period, objections were received from Labour MSPs about the establishment of a facility at Bellshill, which has significantly delayed the planning process."

She said the Scottish government was in close contact with National Services Scotland (NSS) over the issue.

"NSS confirmed they continue to work with Tradebe Healthcare National Ltd - and a phased introduction in their delivery of healthcare waste management services will begin on 2 August," she added.

"Until then, NSS have reassured that plans will continue to be in place to ensure there is no disruption to NHS services. We will continue to offer support where we can to ensure public health is protected."

Tradebe has been contacted for comment.

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