People across Fenland will soon have to start paying to dispose of their diabetic needles and other clinical waste
Patients could find themselves with a bill for disposing of their clinical waste later this year when the local NHS ends its free disposal service.
Fenland District Council has notified members that it is working with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group and Recap (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste Partnership) to find a way to help the hundreds of customers who currently take their clinical waste to dispensaries and clinics to be disposed off.
Fenland Councillor Virginia Bucknor said she was “horrified” at the suggestion vulnerable patients may end up paying to get rid of their unwanted clinical waste including dressings and needles.
She said: “It appears the council is trying to find a solution to a problem caused by the local NHS who have announced they will no longer be providing a disposal service, probably because they need to make cuts.
“This is going to affect hundreds of people, Fenland has a higher than average number of diabetics who can currently get rid of their needles at their pharmacy or doctor’s surgery. They have a sharps box at home, when it is full they take it in and get a new one - it works very smoothly.
“The briefing note advises us that these customers can make arrangements for their clinical waste to be collected by contacting the council to book a collection on an ad hoc basis - there is a charge for this which will be waived until September 1, but after that they will be expected to pay £8.
“The briefing says the council is going to be talking to people about their clinical waste disposal needs over the next few weeks - but these people are some of the most vulnerable in our community. We’re told that for those customers who are being cared for in their own home and as a result produce a large amount of waste on a regular basis, the council can arrange a bespoke assessment of their waste needs.
“Do really sick people need the hassle and worry of trying to sort out disposal of their clinical waste? The briefing note also suggests the council will try to “encourage” the NHS to arrange for waste to be removed without charge where people are being looked after by the district nurse - but what are the nurses supposed to do with it?”
Meanwhile she says: “Are we going to have Fenland vehicles running all over the district collecting people’s sharps boxes for an £8 fee - that just seems totally illogical and not at all cost effective.
“I also want to know when and how these changes were agreed as we have not discussed them at a council meeting."
In the meantime those not producing needles or infectious waste can use the council’s hygiene waste collection which runs alongside the normal waste collection, which is free and done on a two weekly basis with special sacks or bins provided by the council free of charge.
The note also points out: “It is important to note that the collection charge will be waived for customers who through their health condition create a large amount of clinical waste and/or require frequent collections of clinical waste, such as through home dialysis or infectious waste. At present the council has nine customers with these specific needs.”
News of the changes has sparked an outcry on social media with many people upset at the thought of having to pay to dispose of their diabetic needles and also concerned at possibly having to pay for a doctor’s letter in order to prove the need and to arrange for Fenland Council to collect any clinical waste.
Several have said they will be writing local MP Steve Barclay, himself a junior health minister, about the issue.
One woman wrote: “Another stealth tax, but hitting those that require their meds to live?.... Disgusting tactics.”
While another said: “Omg that’s awful - being diabetic we don’t have to pay for prescriptions yet will have to pay for this!”
There were also concerns that some needles will end up in the normal rubbish bins or worse dumped on the streets.
One person wrote: “I guess many needles will end up in the general waste bins, sometimes these people are just so short-sighted........how many months before there are reports saying what’s happened to discarded needles will be posted onto this page. Will heroin users pay this? of course not as the need the £8 for put towards their next fix.”
Dr Gary Howsam, chairman and chief clinical officer at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, gave no explanation for the changes but pointed out it is the district council’s responsibility to dispose of clinical waste.
He said: “Patients who use needles and sharps should contact their local council’s waste or environmental services department whose responsibility it is for their disposal. Any charge introduced locally to provide the service will have been made at the discretion of the local council.
“The CCG advises patients to address any queries to the district council to which they pay council tax (not necessarily the district council where their GP practice is located). Fenland residents can find out more at www.fenland.gov.uk/clinical”
“You might also want to have a look at the NHS Choices website which also states ‘If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, and use needles to self-medicate at home, your local council is responsible for collecting your full sharps bin.’ https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/how-should-i-dispose-of-used-needles-or-sharps/”
The briefing note adds: “Any customer concerned about these changes should be advised to contact the environmental services support team via 01354 654321 or email email@example.com .”
Further details about waste collections, including hygiene and clinical waste collections can be found at www.fenland.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling
Customers can book the collection of clinical waste online at http://www.fenland.gov.uk/clinical where the collections are free until September 1 2018.