Taking care of clinical waste
24 July 2014
Clinical waste management is perhaps not top of the priority list for an FM company, but waste does matter, and without proper compliance the consequences could be highly detrimental. Mike Pearson, head of NHS Accounts at SRCL, explains why
The majority of facilities management (FM) companies that have expanded their services to provide "total facilities management” (TFM) do so by partnering with suppliers to enhance their compliance offering to customers. This is especially relevant when it comes to technical service areas that are heavily governed by industry-specific regulations. Clinical waste management is one such area that may require specialist expertise from suppliers due to the various compliance requirements.
It is a legal requirement not to mix hazardous waste with non-hazardous waste or other categories of hazardous waste. This is of particular importance to producers of healthcare waste due to the variety of waste streams produced that could be hazardous due to being infectious or containing dangerous substances. Correct segregation at source ensures that the waste is then treated appropriately.
There is a valid point made in Section 5 of the Health Technical Memorandum 07-01 (HTM 07-01) as follows: "Proper segregation of different types of waste is critical to safe management of healthcare waste and helps control management costs (subsection 5.22).” (Gov.uk).
The HTM 07-01 memorandum further goes on to advise how "Different wastes have different disposal options; segregating the waste allows better management of the material (the legal requirement to segregate waste cannot be avoided – choosing to incinerate everything is not an option). To dispose of mixed waste legally can be very expensive and problematical (Subsection 5.12)."
In addition to the DoH guidance and HTM 07-01 guidance, we have new government-published regulations in July (2014) that will change the way health and care services are inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The 16 essential standards of quality and safety currently being used to underpin assessments have now been replaced with ‘fundamental standards’. These fundamental standards will come into force for all health and care service providers in April 2015.
Part of the fundamental standards will require that "all premises and equipment used must be clean, secure, suitable and used properly" and "systems and processes must be established to ensure compliance with the fundamental standards".
Clinical waste considerations
FM companies providing complete services to healthcare organisations including clinical waste management must ensure that their suppliers and partners are working in accordance with the new fundamental standards. The incorrect storage of waste, irregular collections and improper waste segregation at the source can lead to non compliance with these fundamental standards.
Healthcare providers also have to keep track of other matters such as reducing costs, compliance, safety and sustainability. Just in England, the Department of Health would like the NHS to make up to £20 billion worth of efficiency savings by 2015, to make more funds available for treating patients and to allow the NHS to respond to changing demands and new technologies (Gov.uk).
Additionally, the NHS Sustainable Development Unit’s (SDU) Carbon Reduction Strategy is aimed not just at the NHS but the wider public health and social care system. It defines paths to sustainable health care by 2020 with the measures and targets against which progress will be measured.
We’ve found some of the main requirements for the FM sector to be cost effectiveness, sustainability (energy-from-waste), technical expertise and transfer of risk. FM companies are increasingly seeing the recovery benefits of our sustainable waste management training that is provided with emphasis placed on correct waste segregation and compliance. TFM contracts can often span a number of years, and FM companies want a supplier to stand the test of time and have contingencies in place for any eventuality.
Staff members in healthcare environments are not only responsible for patient care and other administrative tasks that go with the job, but they also have a duty of care towards disposing waste safely and compliantly. And as suppliers, it is our job to make the process of waste management unambiguous.
The complexities of facilities management in a healthcare environment dictate the requirement for compliant and cost effective third parties that are aligned with the FM provider on wider issues of service quality and sustainability. It’s vital that suppliers have the internal resources and capacity to streamline operations and minimise risk.