HC Deb 28 February 2003 vol 400 cc769-70W
Tim Loughton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidelines are followed when contracting out disposal of human tissue to hospital waste disposal companies; what outside companies are used by the NHS for disposal of human tissue; what the terms of their contracts are; and for how long they have been doing work for the NHS. [99082]

Ms Blears

It is for National Health Service trusts to determine their local hospital waste contract requirements and specifications, and fulfil all statutory and legal obligations. However, a significant amount of guidance on clinical waste management and disposal is available to the NHS. The Health and Safety Commission guidance, Safe disposal of clinical waste, statesIdentifiable human tissue is clinical waste unless it has been rendered safe and non-infectious. After treatment, identifiable human tissue remains an offensive waste. It therefore needs to be dealt with by an authorised waste handling facility. The only appropriate treatment for identifiable human tissue is incineration.

Human tissue has to be disposed of by incineration. Not all waste disposal facilities are licensed or have the appropriate disposal technology to dispose of human tissue. Those companies who only operate alternative non-burn technology plant and facilities are required to sub-contract human tissue clinical waste to other facilities for incineration.

Human tissue is not dealt with under a separate contract but clearly, where non-burn solutions are used for the bulk of the waste, it does require a separate logistical approach. In England, the main clinical waste disposal companies are:

Waste Disposal Companies
White Rose Environmental Incineration
Eurocare Environmental Services Ltd Incineration and non-burn
Polkacrest Non-burn (microwaves and autoclaves)
BFH Incineration
Grundons Incineration
Viridor Incineration
EDW Butler Incineration
Peake Incineration
Torgam Non burn (autoclave)

All contract terms will be individual and specific. NHS trusts are autonomous bodies and as such have local responsibility for all contracts dependent on their needs and specifications. Contracts will differ in terms of requirements and contract period. NHS Purchasing And Supply Agency are currently reviewing their total waste management contract terms and conditions.

Since the introduction of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the loss of Crown Immunity in 1991, the NHS has moved away from disposing of its own waste to contracting out that service to the private sector. The consequence of legislative changes relating to clinical waste disposal resulted in NHS owned and operated incinerators being shut down and replaced with modern large scale incinerators, provided, in the main, through joint ventures between the NHS and the private sector, or the private sector alone.

The NHS continues to handle some 8 per cent. of clinical waste disposal for England.