Legal threat against Harrogate and District NHS following medical waste disposal row

Waste disposal firm HES is threatening to sue Harrogate and District NHS.
Waste disposal firm HES is threatening to sue Harrogate and District NHS.

Harrogate’s NHS Trust is among those likely to be sued by a waste disposal firm that has had its contracts terminated over concerns about unlawful stockpiling and disposal of medical waste.

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Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) announced earlier this month its intentions to take legal action against 17 Yorkshire and Humber health trusts, including the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust.

The firm stated that it would seek up to £15m in damages for what it calls the unlawful termination of the contracts. It comes after HES was stripped of its contracts, following revelations from trust regulation body NHS Improvement that the business wasn’t processing and disposing of medical waste within required time limits.

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In a statement, HES managing director GarryPettigrew said the business had “no choice” but to take legal action, claiming that the contracts were terminated “without first discussing any performance issues with the company”, adding that “we were given no opportunity to fulfil our obligations”.

The firm has denied “sensationalised media reports” that hundreds of tons of human body parts were among items caught up in a backlog at its sites. The firm said that the situation had been caused by a lack of high temperature incinerators in the UK, as well as pressure on NHS trusts not to send waste to landfill.

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The Environmental Agency has confirmed it has launched criminal proceedings against HES, but the firm has responded by saying: “We understand this allegation relates to an alleged failure to complete documentation” and claims it does not relate to the handling of waste.

When contacted for comment, the Harrogate trust directed inquiries to NHS Improvement.

“We absolutely refute the allegations made by HES Ltd,” a NHS Improvement spokesperson said.

“The NHS takes the duty of care regarding clinical waste very seriously and has worked hard to ensure patient care remains unaffected.”