Norfolk hospital held contract with disposal company caught up in human body part stockpiling scandal
PUBLISHED: 16:30 05 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:30 05 October 2018
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Norfolk's flagship hospital has been caught up in a scandal where human body parts have been allowed to pile up by a disposal company.
Healthcare Environment Services Ltd (HES) has been found to be in breach of its permits at five sites in England which deal with clinical waste and a criminal investigation has been launched, the Environment Agency said.
The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that amputated limbs and pharmaceutical waste were among the matter which had not been properly disposed of and said a Cobra meeting was chaired by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month over the issue.
While the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and the Queen Elizabeth Hopsital in King’s Lynn did not hold a contract with HES, the county’s busiest hospital the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) did.
A hospital spokesman said: “We have contingency plans in place and NNUH services are running as normal. Patients should be assured that their care is unaffected.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said there is “absolutely no risk” to public health.
A government spokesman said: “We are monitoring the situation closely and have made sure that public services - including NHS trusts - have contingency plans in place.
“Our priority is to prevent disruption to the NHS and other vital public services and work is under way to ensure organisations can continue to dispose of their waste safely and efficiently.”
A spokesman for Healthcare Environmental Services said: “Healthcare Environmental has highlighted the reduction in the UK’s high-temperature incineration capacity for the last few years.
“This is down to the ageing infrastructure, prolonged breakdowns and the reliance on zero waste to landfill policies, taking up the limited high-temperature incineration capacity in the market.
“Over the last year, this reduced incineration capacity has been evident across all of the industry and has affected all companies.”
It added it had “consistently highlighted” the issue to environmental regulators, and there has been no disruption to services to customers.
At one site in Normanton, West Yorkshire, excess waste levels reached 350 tonnes in September, the HSJ reported.
This is five times more than the company’s 70 tonne limit, and a small proportion of it is believed to have been human body parts.
Up to 50 trusts have contracts with the company, the HSJ said, but they are not believed to be experiencing disruption to waste collection.