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A faulty production line

GP surgeries forced to store clinical waste in toilets after missed collections

Exclusive Multiple GP surgeries have had to keep clinical waste in their staff toilets after collections from an NHS contractor were delayed.

Doctors in Derbyshire have said problems with incinerators in the area has led to a build-up of waste storage centrally and therefore waste collectors cannot pick up more from the surgeries.

GP leaders in Derby have said the situation is ‘unacceptable’ and a ‘health hazard’, and that the issue is not exclusive to the region.

Treasurer for Derby and Derbyshire LMC, Dr Peter Holden, said: ’I understand one of the waste collectors had its incinerators down for maintenance and then had another incinerator break down.

‘In the weather we’ve had, to have that kind of clinical waste lying around is just not acceptable.’

He added: ‘Normally what you would do is find another contractor and you would send the original contractor the bill. In the health service, the contract isn’t between me and the people who brunt the stuff, it’s between them and the health service. I’m merely left storing it.

‘People who sit behind desks all day don’t have to find the solutions, but we have to live with the results. It’s completely unacceptable. It’s disgusting and it’s a health hazard.

‘There needs to be a back-up solution because if we can’t burn it then there needs to be somewhere where it can be kept safe. A GP surgery is not the place.’

Dr James Betteridge-Sorby, a GP in Derbyshire, tweeted about the issue saying his practice were 'being forced to store bags of clinical waste in our staff toilets'.

He explained to Pulse that there has been a knock-on effect from a ‘capacity issue’ at the incinerators and Derwent Shared Services - the contractor that removes clinical waste – cannot collect and store the waste prior to incineration.

He added: ‘We have a secure storage shed attached to our surgery where waste is stored prior to collection though this is designed to have a capacity to cope with a weekly collection and we’ve not had a collection for 3 weeks now.

‘Because the waste includes sharps boxes with used syringes etc these have to be stored securely so we have no option but to bring the excess waste inside the building now our exterior facility is full to bursting.

’We’ve been assured by our CCG that this is in hand, but nothing appears to have happened yet.’

But NHS Derby and Derbyshire CCG has said the situation is being resolved with extra collections.

A spokesperson said: ‘There have been some delays experienced with clinical waste collection but the company has resolved this with extra collections and we’ve been monitoring the situation to provide any possible support or advice.

‘NHS England has also been notified for awareness.’

Dr Holden added this is part of a wider national issue.

He said: ’I escalated this to the Department of Health resilience and response group because it was a huge problem in Northamptonshire and other places.’

Delayed waste collection has not been an isolated issue within general practice. In October last year, waste disposal firm Health Environmental Services was stripped of its NHS contracts after it was found it was not processing and disposing of hospital clinical waste in due time.

An NHS spokesperson said: 'We are aware of an issue with clinical waste collection and are working closely with the Environment Agency and Department of Health and Social Care to ensure GP practices are able to dispose of their waste appropriately. If they are experiencing problems they should raise it locally through their business as usual routes.'

Derwent Shared Services has been contacted for comment.

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