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GPs storing clinical waste ‘in toilets’ as collections suffer pandemic pressure

Covid vaccine waste

Exclusive GPs continue to store clinical waste ‘in practice toilets’ as the company contracted for collections is struggling with increased volumes of waste linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most recently, practices in Derbyshire have complained about practice areas overflowing with clinical waste, after not having had a collection in over a month.

The local CCG said it was a ‘national’ issue, related to the waste collection contractor’s capacity to incinerate the waste.

It comes as practices in East Sussex had warned their CCG in November that they may have to stop seeing patients if waste was not urgently collected.

The company contracted to collect clinical waste in both Derbyshire and East Sussex, as well as many other parts of the UK, said the issues were related to a ‘surge’ in volumes of clinical waste related to the Covid-19 pandemic, mainly PPE.

The contractor added that it was ‘working hard to ensure that the service returns to normal as quickly as possible’.

Earlier this month, Derbyshire GP partner Dr James Betteridge-Sorby took to Twitter to share his frustration, as waste had not been collected for ‘over a month’ from the Swadlincote Surgery.

Although that waste has now been collected, Dr Betteridge-Sorby told Pulse the practice had been at a point where it was ‘at risk of [waste] overflowing into corridors and/or clinical rooms’.

And he added: ‘Clinical waste [collection] has been incredibly sporadic over the past nine months.’

NHS Derby and Derbyshire CCG told Pulse it was ‘aware that Swadlincote Surgery and some other GP practices within Derbyshire are experiencing issues with the storage of their clinical waste’.

The spokesperson added: ‘This is due to the increase in clinical waste during the Covid-19 pandemic and the capacity of our clinical waste contractor to incinerate the increased waste.

‘This is a national problem, but patients should be assured that their care will be unaffected, and contingency plans are being established.’

The CCG added that it was ‘working with’ its clinical waste contractor ‘to ensure that the challenges they are facing are resolved, including contingency arrangements if needed’.

A Stericycle spokesperson told Pulse: ‘During these unprecedented times, we are aware that some customers are experiencing delays in clinical waste collection and are working hard to ensure that the service returns to normal as quickly as possible.’

The company said it was ‘seeing significant volumes of waste across the entire UK health system’ linked to the spike in Covid-19 cases.

‘This unprecedented surge has resulted in a substantial increase of medical waste, which includes personal protective equipment, gowns, gauze, needles, IVs, and much more,’ the spokesperson said.

They added that Stericycle ‘continues to work closely with the UK Government, NHS hospitals and general practice to safely and efficiently collect and treat the significantly increased volumes of medical waste’.

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