Register
 (photo: William Rafti)
15.10.2018, 09:36

Overhauling NHS Clinical Waste Contracts

White Papers & Briefings, Healthcare, Energy, Water & Waste, EMEA
Anenta director Graham Flynn says investment is needed to secure better value waste management for the NHS.

 

Recent national media coverage highlighting issues surrounding the disposal of NHS clinical waste has painted a very unpleasant picture of a system in chaos.

 

It is unfortunate that despite information being made available about what this waste comprised, in many cases the public has been presented with an image of body parts awaiting incineration, being stockpiled. In fact, this specific type of clinical waste constitutes less than 1% of the total volume.

 

Clinical waste is an often overlooked but inevitable result of treating millions of people every year. Some form of waste is generated during each clinical interaction with a patient and the number of interactions is rising every year. The volume of waste generated is therefore also increasing.

 

Clinical waste cannot simply be disposed of or recycled like most domestic or commercial waste, in every case it requires specialist treatment, one such method being high-temperature incineration.

 

Recent events have brought to the fore, the question of whether the UK’s high-temperature incineration capacity is sufficient to handle the volume of waste produced not just today, but in the coming years, as waste volumes continue to rise.

 

This debate about capacity looks set to continue. Amid calls for greater infrastructure, the Environment Agency have stated that there is sufficient incineration capacity in the UK. In industry, the field is divided, some adamant that incineration capacity is in fact decreasing. To some degree, the conclusion drawn depends on the way in which one considers the issue and whether the focus is upon the operators’ permitted capacity versus their operational capacity or indeed commercial interests.

 

It is also appropriate to consider at this juncture, why permit changes have been granted to HES competitors, despite similar requests from HES being denied.

 

Whatever conclusion is drawn, the current situation is clearly not an advantageous one for the customer, in this and most cases, the NHS. Indeed, it has become apparent that a number of clinical waste contractors have sought to profit from the current situation by increasing their standard tonnage rates, the reduced level of competition leaving the NHS with fewer options and little choice but to pay what is at best, an unfair price.

 

Such practices are short-sighted and ultimately can only impact upon the industry negatively, lowering its reputation further still. Now more than ever, it is fair and transparent pricing that is required for an appropriate level of servicing. This ethos is at the heart of Anenta’s business model and we will continue to work with our clients to mitigate the impact of poor practice and deliver best value for our clients.

 

Many people already familiar with NHS waste disposal may not be surprised by the difficulties the sector now faces and the current disposal challenges are clearly a matter of concern for all parties involved. The issue highlights two key points however: the need for a more robust risk assessment and management process in the NHS and whether investment is now required as a matter of urgency to boost capacity.

 

Change within NHS is required too, to achieve best value. Arguably one of the most effective means by which the NHS could improve upon the issues highlighted is to overhaul the way in which clinical waste contracts are procured.

 

The need for changes in the procurement process has been highlighted very clearly in fact by recent litigation between the NHS and leading clinical waste contractors. Such change will be welcomed by the industry’s trade associations with many of the key stakeholders waiting for exactly this in order to demonstrate real innovation and drive new efficiencies in waste management which the existing process effectively curtails. As a matter of urgency then, the NHS needs to move away from the race-to-the-bottom evidenced through e-auctions and assess the quality of service it will receive in a more robust manner.

 

Such a change in the procurement process, delivered in tandem with more effective, proactive contract management, will see a significant improvement in service levels as well as compliance. It will also enable the NHS to improve its risk assessment process, identifying issues such as those now being reported, much further in advance.

 

Ageing infrastructure, the impact of zero waste to landfill policies and limited high-temperature incineration capacity have been cited as the underlying cause for recent events. While this debate will continue, it is clear there is very little slack in the system as capacities are held for commercial reasons and planned or unplanned shutdowns.

 

When one considers the bigger picture however beyond this debate, it is clear that with the appropriate open discussion and investment, the UK’s clinical waste disposal capacity could be increased significantly. Critically, this increased disposal capacity would mean new operators in the market place, greater competition and greater transparency allowing the NHS to secure a fair price for an appropriate level of service.

 

This can only benefit the NHS and ultimately secure better value for the public purse.

 

 

 

Graham Flynn

About Graham Flynn

Graham Flynn is a director of Anenta (www.anentawaste.com), an independent environmental services contract management partner that provides bespoke recycling, general waste, sani-waste, confidential and clinical waste streams.

Article rating:

vote data

 (photo: Rentokil Initial plc)
News Editor  - 01.03.2018, 08:30

Strong Growth from Rentokil Initial

FTSE 100 business services group Rentokil Initial has announced revenue growth of 14.5 per cent and on-going operating profits of 14.8 per cent in preliminary results for the year ended 31 December...

(Photograph courtesy of Tookapic). (photo: )
Marissa Francis  - 05.03.2018, 17:13

The Definition of 'Clever'

Marissa Francis, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Improver with ABM UK, explains why university isn't the only route into facilities management.

New chargepoint installation at Southampton Airport. (photo: Southampton Airport)
AGS Airports  - 26.03.2018, 11:30

Southampton Airport Adds EV Chargepoints

Southampton Airport is helping power the growing number of electric vehicle (EV) drivers on UK roads with the installation of seven new Pod Point 7kW chargepoints in its short stay and priority...

(Photograph courtesy of Tookapic). (photo: )
Marissa Francis  - 05.03.2018, 17:13

The Definition of 'Clever'

Marissa Francis, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Improver with ABM UK, explains why university isn't the only route into facilities management.

New chargepoint installation at Southampton Airport. (photo: Southampton Airport)
AGS Airports  - 26.03.2018, 11:30

Southampton Airport Adds EV Chargepoints

Southampton Airport is helping power the growing number of electric vehicle (EV) drivers on UK roads with the installation of seven new Pod Point 7kW chargepoints in its short stay and priority...

 (photo: Weland Solutions AB)
Weland Solutions AB  - 21.11.2018, 13:52

From Traditional Shelving to Acclaimed Storage

When global leader in cable harnesses, electrical cabinets, and mechanical systems for vehicles and industry Rimaster needed to rationalise its storage, it commissioned Swedish supply chain and...

A Samsung Machine Tools CMC Lathe. (photo: Samsung Machine Tools)
CNC Machines LLC  - 20.11.2018, 18:04

Black Friday Deals on Used CNC Machines

CNC Machines LLC, a Florida-based supplier of computer numerical control (CNC) machines used by small and mid-sized manufacturers, is hosting a unique virtual sale on more than 500 machines from...