Hartlepool MP calls for answers over hospital containers following waste stockpiling ‘scandal’

Containers in the grounds of the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
Containers in the grounds of the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has raised concerns and called for answers after large containers to potentially store medical waste have been put in place close to the town’s hospital.

Hospital bosses moved nine of the containers on to land adjacent to the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

It comes after the Environment Agency said private firm Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) stored excess clinical waste inappropriately at a number of its sites.

In addition to enforcement action, the Environment Agency has launched a criminal investigation.

Fifteen NHS trusts have terminated their contracts with HES, but they are still being used by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

National media reports have suggested the containers may be being used to store human medical waste in the light of the contracts disruption.

The Environment Agency has also warned HES it may partially suspend operations at HES’s Newcastle site, if excess waste there is not removed.

But North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust says it is business as usual with HES and the containers in Hartlepool not yet been needed.

Chief executive of the trust, Julie Gillon, said: “On Friday of last week, I received an enquiry from Mike Hill MP to which I promptly sent a written response outlining the following.

“As has been widely reported in the media, some NHS organisations have made changes to their waste management arrangements.

“We are in the process of putting contingency plans in place which include temporarily increasing storage capacity so that, in the event of any disruption, we are able to continue delivering services.

“As a responsible trust we continue to prioritise protecting our patients at all times.”

The trust adds any decision on what may be stored in the containers would be made by the Environment Agency.

Mr Hill said: “In light of the Healthcare Environmental Services scandal I assume that the Trust will not be alone in having to make emergency provisions, if indeed that is what the containers are there for.

“The Trust are not being very clear on the matter, which is of concern given the sensitivities of the issue and of the use of the land they have been placed upon.

“Especially when it comes to the NHS and our hospital services it is unacceptable that the people of Hartlepool should be left in the dark, and on such a serious issue like this we need answers fast.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are supporting the Government and the NHS to ensure there is no disruption to public services and alternative plans are put in place for hospitals affected to dispose of their waste safely.”

Healthcare Environmental Services has denied that any dangerous waste on its sites has been stockpiled.

It has blamed a lack of incineration capacity for exceeding waste storage levels at its site in Normanton, West Yorkshire.