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Fenland District Council agrees clinical waste solution

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A proposal to retain free collection points for sharps boxes at selected pharmacies and GP surgeries across Fenland has been agreed by councillors.

Fenland Council agrees solution to clinical waste dilemma.
Fenland Council agrees solution to clinical waste dilemma.

With cooperation from Community Pharmacies, Fenland Council is planning to offer the collection points from April 1 next year when the existing pharmacy collection service provided by NHS England comes to an end.

The proposal was agreed at a full council meeting yesterday (Thursday, December 13) following months of work to determine the future of clinical waste collection and disposal in Fenland – although it still has to be agreed by individual local pharmacies and GPs. The move comes after NHS England announced earlier this year that it would no longer be arranging for the collection of returned domestic sharps boxes from local pharmacies, as it has done for decades. It said it was handing responsibility back to local authorities, which have a statutory duty to collect household clinical waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Figures showed the estimated cost to the Council of providing a free door-to-door clinical waste collection service, similar to general waste and recycling collections, would cost more than £60,000 a year for adult prescriptions alone.

To cover the cost, the Council was set to introduce an £8 fee to collect clinical waste from individuals’ homes, as is permitted under controlled waste legislation, from autumn this year when NHS England was originally due to begin withdrawing its collections.

However, the charge was postponed when a request to the NHS to delay the changes from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste Partnership (RECAP), which Fenland is part of, enabled other solutions to be explored.

Now the Council is proposing to introduce the existing free sharps box collection points in up to 20 local pharmacies at a cost of £18,000 a year, and in selected dispensing GP Practices at a cost of £2,000 a year.

The Council will also provide a pay-as-you-go doorstep collection of clinical waste for £8 per collection, although residents, who through medical needs, require very regular collections and cases of extreme hardship, will not have to pay for the doorstep service.

Councillor Peter Murphy, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for the Environment, said: “This solution will help to minimise the impact for customers of the NHS changes and ensure a consistent service is provided across Fenland. It will also give customers a choice and reduce the potential cost to the taxpayer.”

A report before Thursday’s Council meeting said the move was also in line with approaches adopted by other local authorities across the country.

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