Safety fears as cuts force Haringey doctors to empty own clinical waste

Cuts mean surgeries have to empty their own bins

Doctors surgeries staff say new clinical waste contractors brought in to save money have put workers and patients at risk.

Justin Mason, practice manager at Allenson House Medical Centre in Crouch End, says they almost cancelled a clinic over health and safety concerns when they were left in the lurch during the crossover with the new provider.

The NHS Haringey changes have left surgery staff changing clinical waste bins containing needles and used dressings, instead of trained professionals, and forced them to leave the detritus in a locked but mobile wheelie bin outside the building.

Mr Mason says they are one of many surgeries that have experienced problems.

“It’s cost-cutting which has become detrimental to the service,” he said.

“The initial communication and structure has been very badly managed and it’s put the surgery and patients at risk.”

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GPs previously organised their own contractors, but last year health bosses informed practices that from March one company would cover the whole borough.

In December, practices were asked to provide an audit of the service they currently received to ensure a smooth transition.

Allenson House explained that their contractors of more than 20 years came fortnightly into doctor’s and nurse’s room to remove waste directly from the special bins, which were rented from the company.

But after the contract ended two weeks ago and the company removed all the specialist bins and bags required by law, it emerged that the new contractor would not supply the same materials and the surgery had to buy their own.

They were then told that staff would now be expected to remove the waste themselves – for which the PCT said they may even require training.

The waste was then supposed to be placed in a large bin outside, another issue which caused Mr Mason some concern.

“Obviously we keep an eye on it during the day, but if at night or on weekends it ended up down the road, we would be in a lot of trouble,” he said.

To make matters worse, the huge bin did not arrive until two days later and the surgery was told to keep the accumulated waste inside. Mr Mason said: “There’s no way we can leave clinical waste bags out in the reception – there could be small children, people with walking sticks, blind people, who could all fall over it and we do not know what’s in there. We just know that it needs to be incinerated as it could cause cross-contamination or infection.

“I was close to cancelling a clinic because the situation with the waste would have been a serious breach of infection control. I was not prepared to put staff or patients at risk.”

The surgery will now be given a smaller bin where they will have to place their own clinical waste inside the surgery, but Mr Mason places the fault squarely with poor communication from the PCT.

A spokeswoman for NHS Haringey said: “We have been working closely with GPs across Haringey to standardise the contract for clinical waste disposal services to ensure 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.”