10-year NHS clinical waste strategy can save £11 million per year


The NHS estimates its clinical waste strategy will reduce carbon emissions from waste by approximately 30% and save approximately £11 million every year in recurrent revenue costs over ten years.

This clinical waste strategy aims to improve waste management practices amongst NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts and primary care to make them more efficient and sustainable to save on cost, improve hospital function and reduce the impact on the environment in line with NHS net zero carbon commitments.

The NHS says this will be achieved through fostering improvement in six key areas of focus: data, workforce, compliance, commercial, infrastructure and sustainability. The strategy details the planned key activities and key performance indicators for progress in each of these areas and provides a background for why they are important.

The NHS’ clinical waste strategy is a rolling 10-year strategy, with annual reviews and implementation plans for one and three years ahead. It primarily covers the management plans for clinical and offensive waste from NHS providers in England. However, in reference to sustainability and net zero carbon objectives, the strategy is relevant to all waste types produced by NHS services.

The NHS timeline as part of the strategy includes ensuring 100% of NHS trusts and foundation trusts have dedicated waste managers (at least 0.5 FTE) with accountable individuals for waste management identified across all providers in 2023.

In our journey to reduce waste to an absolute minimum, there will be many opportunities to review the materials we use.

The strategy also commits all NHS providers to introduce arrangements for the management of the offensive waste stream in 2023.

In 2024, all clinical waste generated by NHS providers must be regularly reported with a minimum of 95% accuracy.

While in 2026, the strategy commits the NHS to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions produced from waste management in its organisations and all NHS providers achieving clinical waste segregation targets of 20:20:60 HTI (high-temperature incineration), AT (alternative treatment), and OW (offensive waste).

By 2030, the strategy aims to reduce the average net cost of clinical waste management by 15% per tonne of waste.

Writing in the strategy’s foreword, Simon Corben, Director of Estates and Head of Profession, NHS England, said: “In our journey to reduce waste to an absolute minimum, there will be many opportunities to review the materials we use and to find ways of reusing, remanufacturing, or recycling, thus turning them into valuable resources for future use.”

Reacting to the strategy, Donald Macphail, Chief Operating Officer – Treatment, Veolia UK, said: “We welcome the publication of the new NHS Clinical Waste Strategy which will enable healthcare to advance the management of complex waste streams.

“By using the latest technologies across data collection and monitoring, waste segregation and treatment, Veolia can help the NHS to benefit from increased sustainability and lower costs while maintaining essential compliance and safety.

“From our operations that serve over 200 healthcare facilities we know that innovation and infrastructure, backed by training, is key to implementing this strategy and these new processes are already set to exceed the target of 50% carbon reduction by 2026.”

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