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The true cost of the clinical waste disposal row

by Graham Flynn on 07 November 2018
The true cost of the clinical waste disposal row

The recent airing of issues surrounding the disposal of NHS clinical waste have sparked a debate about whether sufficient capacity exists for its disposal via incineration where appropriate. While this debate continues to divide those in the industry, one positive can be drawn from the situation, which is that the issue has now been forced into the public domain and media spotlight. It is a wake-up call and one which some will believe is long overdue.

The fact that patient numbers are increasing year on year, and that some form of waste is generated during each clinical interaction, cannot be ignored. The amount of waste will inevitably rise, and the issue of capacity will ultimately have to be resolved. We are therefore pleased to see the issue being discussed at national level, and hope this will lead to long-term solutions.

However, while the capacity debate continues, in its shadow a legitimately worrying practice may be taking place as a direct result of the action against HES.

Is profiteering taking place in the wake of the clinical waste row?

Profiteering is defined as ‘disproportionately large or grossly unfair profit, generated often through manipulation of prices, abuse of dominant position, or by exploiting a bad or unusual situation such as temporary scarcity.’

Recent events could certainly be described as ‘bad or unusual’ and have resulted in ‘temporary scarcity’ in the form of reduced competition.

It has been suggested that some organisations are using the sudden reduction in competition and pressure upon existing incineration capacity to dramatically increase their cost per tonne. There is usually no governmental control over profiteering unless it involves illegal means, so while the price rises some service users claim to be facing may not be illegal, questions need to be raised regarding the ethics of placing additional financial strain on an already stretched health service which ultimately impacts upon the public purse and patient care.

So far, the media has focused on how the NHS will be adversely affected by the revelations about clinical waste disposal. While we appreciate the headline appeal of a taxpayer-funded service being forced to over-spend, we feel attention should also be drawn to the potential impact on private healthcare providers, including care homes.

As we have previously discussed, more than 400 care home businesses have collapsed in the lastdecade, and according to one accountancy firm, the number of care home insolvencies almost doubled in 2017/18.

With an aging population in the UK, care home businesses should be benefitting from the shift in demographic, but due to cuts in local authority budgets and the rising costs associated with the care industry, they are struggling.

Profiteering must stop

At Anenta we believe that profiteering is unethical and such activity should cease immediately to prevent creating further financial problems for healthcare providers in both the public and private sectors.

We take pride in the amount of money we have helped care homes and other private sector organisations to save over the years through effective, efficient waste management and are acutely aware of the unnecessary pressure that increased waste management costs will place upon them. As Anenta strives to rebuild trust in the waste management industry, we are naturally concerned about the negative impact upon all stakeholders. Most importantly though, we want to assure our existing clients that we are committed to maintaining the highest levels of customer service, procuring cost effective waste management contracts and seeing a fair price for an appropriate level of service delivered. New clients can also be confident that they will be offered the same affordable, tailored service that underpins Anenta’s offer.

Our goal has always been to offer every client a bespoke service that provides the very best value for money, and that is what we will continue to do, driving new efficiencies in waste management.