Q&A: What has happened at clinical waste firm HES?

  • Published
contaminated sharps binImage source, Getty Images

Hundreds of workers at a troubled clinical waste firm in North Lanarkshire have been made redundant.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) said its banking facilities had been cut off following the loss of NHS contracts in Scotland and England.

How did this happen and what does it mean for those affected?

Where did the trouble start?

In October reports first emerged of a backlog of hundreds of tonnes of human body parts and medical waste piling up at Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) disposal sites and a criminal investigation was launched in England amid concerns the firm was not properly disposing of the waste.

Why did it impact HES so much?

Image source, Getty Images

HES had the responsibility for disposing of clinical waste from every hospital, GP's surgery, dental practice and pharmacy in Scotland but was told earlier this month the deal, worth up to £140m, would not be renewed in April next year.

In addition, the firm removed waste from dozens of major hospitals in England but lost 17 contracts with NHS trusts south of the border after the waste build-up was revealed.

What did the company say?

HES boss Garry Pettigrew has robustly defended his firm throughout the controversy, claiming the problems were caused by a shortage of incinerators for the disposal of waste the rather than the company's actions.

What does it all mean for the NHS?

When HES hit difficulties NHS Scotland put into place contingency measures which will see another private firm collect the clinical waste until the new contractor, Spanish firm Tradebe, takes over in April, 2019.

What happens now?

The 150 workers in Scotland, and 400 UK-wide, now start the hunt for a new job but have the possibility they will be taken on by the firms taking over the HES contracts.

Last month HES launched a £15m legal action against the 17 NHS trusts which terminated contracts with the Lanarkshire firm.

In addition, the company, and its directors, are still subject to an ongoing criminal investigation by the UK Government's Environment Agency.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has also issued a string of enforcement notices about the storage of waste at HES yards in Dundee and Shotts.