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NHS waste scandal firm has been ‘vilified’, boss says

The boss of the firm at the centre of the NHS clinical waste scandal has hit back against claims of ..

The boss of the firm at the centre of the NHS clinical waste scandal has hit back against claims of mismanagement.

Garry Pettigrew, managing director of Healthcare Environmental Services, told the BBC his company had been "vilified for providing an excellent service".

The firm has been stripped of NHS contracts after hundreds of tonnes of clinical waste piled up at its sites.

But Mr Pettigrew said the problems were caused by a shortage of incinerators rather than the company's actions.

The Environment Agency has taken enforcement action against North Lanarkshire-based HES and has launched a criminal investigation.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Stephen Barclay told Parliament that NHS Improvement had concluded that HES "failed to demonstrate that they were operating within their contractual limits".

As a result, 15 NHS Trusts in England and Wales had served notices to terminate their contracts with the firm, he said.

The Environment Agency previously said HES was in breach of its environmental permits at four of its six sites which deal with clinical waste – by having more waste on site than their permit allows and storing waste inappropriately.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Mr Pettigrew denied suggestions that his company had mismanaged services, instead blaming the problems on a "major drop" in incineration capacity since 2015.

On Tuesday, Mr Barclay insisted there was "significant" additional incineration capacity.

"We have basically got to the point of where we are today where the lack of incineration capacity was just getting worse," Mr Pettigrew said.

"At every part of this we have been talking to the Environment Agency. We thought they would be able to help."

An Environment Agency spokesman told the BBC: "There is industry-wide agreement that there is enough capacity to deal with clinical waste and our site inspections show the rest of the sector is performing well.

"However, Healthcare Environmental Services has significantly and repeatedly breached its environmental permits by storing excess waste at a number of its sites.

"We have taken a range of action with the company but they have continued to operate unlawfully. As a result, in addition to our enforcement activity to clear the sites, we have launched a criminal investigation."

But Mr Pettigrew said he felt his company had been treated unfairly.

"We have been a success story up until last week, and all of a sudden now everyone sees this as being a horror story," he said.

"We feel it's a horror story, but purely because in reality we've told the truth and at the moment, we don't feel the news is getting out there in the way we would like it to."

'Jewel in the crown'

Mr Pettigrew also denied allegations that the waste that built up on sites included human body parts, such as amputated limbs.

He said: "None of that is true.

"Every single part that people are referring to there is dealt with securely, professionally, and any anatomical waste would be stored in fridges and at the same time prioritised for outward bound."

Mr Pettigrew also rejected suggestions that the firm had not been equipped to properly run the services.

"I refute all of that.

"We've had this contract since 2010. If you go back to the articles in 2010, this was the jewel in the crown of NHS England, that we had saved them £30m for awarding this contract to us.

"For the last eight years we have done this contract and never seen the situation we are in now."

The government has previously said that there was "absolutely no risk" posed to the health of patients or the wider public.

New arrangements have been made for outsourcing firm Mitie to take on the contracts of which HES was stripped.

HES is to retain its NHS contracts in Scotland.

Original Article

BBC

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A collar might help prevent sports-related concussions: Study

Team sports build character, teach discipline and keep your kids healthy, but for some sports, like ..

Team sports build character, teach discipline and keep your kids healthy, but for some sports, like soccer and football, they could also increase their risk of brain injuries. Helping to prevent these injuries, a new neck collar has shown promising results in protecting the brain.

The specialized collar, developed by researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, applies pressure to the back of the neck. This pressure allows the artery in the neck to safely backfill the brain with blood, turning the blood into a cushion that makes it less likely for the brain to move upon impact.

The idea for the collar was born out of “biological mimicry,” Dr. David Smith, a visiting research scientist at the Children's Hospital who led a study that tested the collar, told ABC News.

Essentially, Smith and his colleagues looked to nature to solve a medical issue. “If a woodpecker could repeatedly hit its head and not sustain any head injury, why couldnt this be applied to humans,” Smith said.

The study involved 75 teen girls ages 14 to 18 who played for two local high school soccer teams. Only one team received the collars, and then they played soccer. Both teams were asked to undergo brain scans at the beginning and end of the season, as well as during the off-season.

The scans showed that while the brains of the team that hadnt worn the collars showed signs of damage from head impacts, the brains of the team that had worn the collars remained the same.

The results are encouraging considering that even minor impacts over the course of an athletes career can have long-lasting effects on their cognitive functioning.

Concussions have emerged as a major health concern across the United States, according to the American Academy of Physicians. Emergency departments report more than a million visits annually for traumatic brain injuries, most of which are concussions.

Womens soccer is the third most common cause of concussion in the U.S., and its estimated that 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year.

There is a debate as to whether the changes shown in the brain scans can result in long-term cognitive decline. However, the areas of the brain that were affected in this study are involved in behavior, personality, expression, decision-making, and long-term memory. (more…)

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Baby box safety doubts raised by experts

Baby boxes are being promoted as a safe alternative to standard cots, bassinets and Moses baskets de..

Baby boxes are being promoted as a safe alternative to standard cots, bassinets and Moses baskets despite a lack of evidence on their safety, experts warn.

The cardboard boxes, which come with items like clothes and blankets and can be used as a bed, are offered to new mums in Scotland and parts of England.

The Royal College of Midwives wants the scheme rolled out across the UK, saying it offers a "more equal start to life".

But experts have raised concerns about how safe the boxes are to sleep in.

Writing in a letter to the BMJ, Prof Peter Blair and colleagues say that, as the evidence stands, the boxes should only be used as a temporary bed if nothing else is available.

The boxes, which come with a mattress, have routinely been given to every expectant mother in Finland since the 1930s.

Scotland started offering the free boxes to new parents last year, while some NHS Trusts in England have had pilot and full schemes in place for up to two years. The boxes are not offered by health bodies in Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Royal College of Midwives says the boxes can reduce the likelihood of babies sleeping unsafely, either on a surface like a sofa or with parents who smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs, and would particularly benefit those born into deprived environments.

However, Prof Blair and colleagues, including representatives of the cot death charity Lullaby Trust, said there was a lack of evidence into how safe the boxes are for sleeping in.

Compared with cots, bassinets and Moses baskets, it is harder for parents to easily see their babies when they are sleeping in them, they warned. (more…)

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Contaminated blood victims ‘on the breadline’

People affected by the contaminated blood scandal “lost everything” and “had to live on the breadlin..

People affected by the contaminated blood scandal "lost everything" and "had to live on the breadline" as they struggled financially, the chairman of the public inquiry says.

In a letter to the Cabinet Office, Sir Brian Langstaff said "decisive action" was needed over the support available.

There is a variety of schemes running across the UK.

Sir Brian said he was concerned about what he heard during the preliminary hearings, which started last month.

The inquiry is expected to last more than two years and is looking into how thousands of people in the 1970s and 1980s were given blood products infected with hepatitis viruses and HIV, and the impact this had on their families.

It will also examine whether there has been any attempt to cover up the scandal.

In his letter to Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, Sir Brian wrote: "You should be aware that there were considerable concerns during the preliminary hearings about access to and variations in financial support and psychological support, and also concern that not everyone who was infected has been identified.

"During the Commemoration people were heard asking 'where is the compassion?' and describing how they had 'lost everything', had to 'live on the breadline' and 'feel betrayed'.

"Throughout the preliminary hearings there were repeated calls for financial assistance which fully recompenses individuals and families for the losses they have suffered.

"One of the legal representatives said: 'Recently there have been changes to the way in which these funds are administered, but any suggestion that this represents proper compensation for the hurt they have, they are and will continue to suffer, is met with anger and indignation.' (more…)

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