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Fenland Council looks set to operate a free sharps boxes collection service at selected pharmacies and GP surgeries

Changes to the way clinical waste is dealt with in Fenland are set to be discussed on Thursday (13) with plans to retain free collection points for sharps boxes.

Clinical waste is on the agenda at next week's Fenland Cabinet meeting.
Clinical waste is on the agenda at next week's Fenland Cabinet meeting.

A report to Thursday's Fenland Cabinet meeting is recommending that from April 1 next year the council should provide free sharps box drop-off points in local pharmacies and most GP surgeries.

It explains the move is necessary after NHS England announced earlier in the summer that it would no longer be providing the service, which it has provided for decades, and was returning the responsibility back to local council. Clinical waste disposal is a statutory obligation of local authorities.

Originally Fenland announced it would be introducing charges of £8 to collect clinical waste from individuals' homes which prompted a massive public backlash and resulted in a petition being presented to September's full council meeting.

As a result it was agreed there would be no charge for clinical waste collections until the matter was returned to full council to consider all the options. Tomorrow's discussion seeks the endorsement of recommendations being made to the full council meeting, which will follow later in the afternoon.

The report explains the options being presented are intended to offer customers a choice and include adopting the approach of other authorities across the country of working with the existing community pharmacy network to provide a continuation of the returns option currently run through NHS England.

It will involve Fenland commissioning this service with the pharmacies alongside providing a pay-as-you-go door-step collection of clinical waste.

The proposal is to have up to 20 free drop-off points across the area. Those people, who through medical needs, require very regular collections and cases of extreme hardship, will not have to pay for the doorstep service.

The cost of the pharmacies drop-off system is expected to cost £18,000 and the report said this has been incorporated into the council's 2019/20 budget estimates. It will cost a further £2,000 for the service at GP surgeries. It would only be offered in surgeries with drug dispensaries.

Charges for household clinical waste collections would be set at £8 and reviewed on an annual basis, but the report explains that under the current system there is very little demand for this as people use the free collection points and it is anticipated this will continue.

The report said the people most affected are the 7,855 registered diabetics in Fenland who have to dispose of their insulin sharps.

The estimated cost to Fenland of not making other arrangements and providing sharps collections without charge is more than £60,000.

Diabetes UK, who was asked by the council for a comment, supported the drop-off points, and expressed concern that charges might put people off using a collection only service.

The report added that timescales and cost meant household waste recycling sites and council premises, including OneStop shops, had to be discounted as options ahead of using the existing network of qualified and experienced professionals that customers are already using.

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