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Hazardous waste driven to Slough in breach of regulations, says Shadow Health Secretary

Hazardous waste has been driven from Yorkshire to Slough by unqualified drivers after being given special licence by the Department for Transport, according to the Shadow Health Secretary.

Jonathan Ashworth made the claim in the House of Commons on Monday, making reference to an article published in the Health Service Journal on the same day.

The Labour MP for Leicester South told colleagues that Department for Transport officials had granted a special licence for hazardous medical waste to be transported from NHS trusts in Yorkshire for disposal in Slough and other parts of the country in a way that was in breach of normal safety regulations.

He said another licence was granted last week for outsourced facilities management company Mitie to take waste to Slough.

The claim comes after a discussion in Parliament on Tuesday, October 16, in which Mr Ashworth challenged Health Minister Stephen Barclay’s assertions that there is sufficient NHS incineration capacity.

Mr Barclay said that, of the 17 NHS trusts in Yorkshire for which Mitie has been contracted to transport waste, three have had the stock of waste on their sites cleared and 12 were due to have theirs cleared by the end of the week.

Mitie took on the contracts on Friday, October 5 to plug the gap after the NHS trusts in question terminated their waste management contracts with Health Environmental Services.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said that, under European regulations, clinical waste should usually be transported as packaged dangerous goods using UN approved large packaging.

However, due to the exceptional circumstances and the short notice following a change of contractors, Mitie sought permission to transport the clinical waste in bulk.

“The new contractor did not have and was unable to source at short notice, sufficient alternative packagings, large packagings or suitably approved BK2 [bulk] containers to clear the backlog.

“Transport in bulk, under conditions specified by the competent authority, was considered to be the most viable option.”

MP for Slough Tan Dhesi told the Express: “This is really disturbing. Clearly, underfunding of the health service, the culture of contracting out services to the private sector and deregulation in general is leading to deteriorating standards of service.

“If the only criteria being used is based on obtaining the cheapest price for this service then shocking incidents like this are bound to occur. The system is broken.”

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