Most hospital trusts have a robust set of protocols when it comes to transporting hospital waste and quite justifiably, as cross contamination is a significant risk if these protocol are not properly implement or followed.
These protocols are there for the safety of patients, staff and general public and for the most part are very effective. However problems can arise when third parties are introduced into the mix, with little knowledge and no responsibility. This has already happened in several hospitals across the UK in which unsafe waste transport practises have been introduced by suppliers with little or no consultation with the trust or any risk assessment.
Some suppliers in their eagerness to sustainably recycle healthcare products and cut costs have implemented shortcuts and by-passes to these important hospital safety protocols which include the unbelievable step of using standard courier services, in preference to specialist vehicles, to pick up hospital waste for recycling. This practise is a danger on so many levels. Firstly this practise seriously contravenes most Trust’s protocols and those of the courier companies, many of which are blissfully unaware that they are transporting hospital waste. Secondly it puts the general public at risk who are unknowingly receiving their DVD’s & books that may have been cross contaminated in the courier delivery van when set next door to a box of hospital waste. Should such a contamination incident occur the first port of call will be the hospital trust, who unfortunately and in many case unknowingly allowed hospital waste to be transported in this manner. In these situations, deferring responsibility to a third party supplier is not an option and the reputational fallout for a trust could prove critical.
At time of going to press, luckily, no incident has yet been reported but this is more a result of luck than judgement and it is just a matter of time before a cross contamination incident makes it into the press or a vulnerable person is hurt. This practise is inherently dangerous yet simply, quickly and easily avoided by following the correct established protocols and using appropriate specialist vehicles and not standard courier service and vans for the transport of hospital waste.
Responsibility for public health and safety cannot and should not be under estimated, devolved or side stepped. An assurance from an unqualified third party supplier is not a certification and Ignorance is not a defence.
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