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‘Take out your own waste’, GPs told

By Laura Passi

Exclusive: A new round of cost-cutting by NHS managers has axed funding for practices’ clinical waste disposal and left GPs emptying clinical waste themselves into wheelie bins outside their surgeries.

GPs in Haringey in north London have been left without pedal bins and been told to expect training in how to empty clinical waste bins and sharps boxes, after NHS Haringey changed the private contractor charged with waste disposal.

Practices have been told the new waste contractors are not insured to enter the surgery, forcing GPs to empty their bins from their rooms themselves.

Staff at one practice were even originally told to leave clinical waste on the pavement, but have since been given a large yellow lockable wheelie bin outside their premises.

Dr Elizabeth Young, a GP at the Allenson House Medical Centre, told Pulse PCT managers had made the change in a bid to cut costs.

‘It’s been so badly organised and completely mismanaged by the PCT,’ she said. ‘We now have cardboard boxes on the floor with plastic bags in them. And we have to have all our staff trained in how to tie up plastic bags before they put them outside.’

‘We are now in breach of infection control rules – it’s appalling.’

A PCT spokesperson said: ‘NHS Haringey has been working closely with GPs across Haringey to standardise the contract for clinical waste disposal services to ensure that all processes are in line with clinical waste management regulations that also provide value for money.’

‘We are also working with GPs and the new provider for waste management to resolve any issues around the procedures for the handling and movement of clinical waste including training.’

Meanwhile GPs in Trafford will also have to take responsibility for waste disposal in their practices, after NHS Trafford informed GPs that it will no longer reimburse them for the cost of clinical waste removal from next month.

Dr Ravi Mene, secretary of Salford and Trafford LMC, told Pulse the PCT was ‘squeezing money everywhere’.

He said: ‘It´s a fruitless cost-cutting exercise. Diabetic patients used to be able to take their sharps to pharmacists for disposal. But because pharmacists are being charged, GPs are expected to dispose of them.’

The ruling on clinical waste means that GPs face paying for collection of their own waste – charged by weight – plus patients’ own waste which is brought to the surgery for disposal because pharmacists are refusing to take it.

A spokesperson for NHS Trafford said the change was the result of PMS contracts being brought in line with the GMS contract.

‘During 2009/10 NHS Trafford took the decision to discontinue reimbursing practices for collection of their clinical waste. As a way of assisting practices to manage this change, a staged reduction was agreed.’

Dr Elizabeth Young