Frequently asked questions

General

For pharmacists

For GPs


General

What’s happening? NHS England has launched a new national framework agreement for the collection and disposal of clinical waste from GP surgeries and unwanted medicines from pharmacies. NHS England is responsible for funding and arranging these services. This new approach will deliver a number of benefits including improved quality standards, consistency, better management of contracts and value for money.

Following a procurement process, five suppliers have now been chosen after successfully meeting a range of quality and value for money criteria to deliver the best clinical waste services for GPs and pharmacies.

The framework will be ready from April 2016 but not everyone will move on to it straight away. There will be a phased approach to implementation depending on which contracts are due to expire and the readiness of local areas to move to the new service. A key priority will be to ensure a smooth transition for GP and pharmacies as we move to new contracts.

Why did you decide to do this? There are wide variations in quality, pricing structure, commercial terms and how contracts are managed. Given we spend around £20m a year we wanted to ensure that when buying and paying for these services in the future we have a consistent approach and quality standards, as well as more robust and consistent contract management arrangements.

What are the benefits of the new framework? There are a number of benefits which include:

  • For the first time all suppliers are expected to meet the same standards no matter where they are providing a service.
  • Suppliers have been assessed against a range of quality standards as part of the procurement process to be selected onto the framework.
  • Suppliers will be monitored against a range of key performance indicators as part of their four year agreement.
  • Training will be provided for those working in pharmacies and GP surgeries by suppliers. This will help ensure a smooth transition when new contracts start and ensure staff are aware of how to dispose of clinical waste appropriately and cost effectively.
  • Suppliers have been assessed on how they will support environmental sustainability and safer disposal of clinical waste.
  • NHS England’s Commercial Team will be supporting NHS England’s local teams to monitor performance of clinical waste suppliers and will handle all invoices on behalf of GPs and pharmacies.

How long will the framework last? The framework will last four years.

How many providers are there and who are they? A list of the suppliers can be found here. These providers will now be able to ‘bid’ for contracts (also called mini competition) across NHS England’s four regions – North, London, South, and East and Midlands.

What’s mini-competition? Four to five suppliers have been appointed to the framework to service each of the four NHS England regions. Individual contracts will be competitively tendered between the relevant framework suppliers and the term ‘mini competition’ refers to this streamlined competitive tender process.

Who is commissioning these services? NHS England is responsible for commissioning and funding these services on behalf of pharmacies and GPs.

What have you done to prepare for this change? We don’t expect there to be many changes for GPs or pharmacies other than a possible change in supplier and/or operational running of contracts, for example collection days. That said we have involved The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and BMA’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) in the development of the framework to advise us on issues related to GPs and pharmacies. Clinical waste experts were also involved in the development of the specification. We are supporting our local teams who will be working hard to ensure a smooth transition to new contracts.

I’m in an NHS Property Services building, how will this new framework affect me? NHS England has recently launched a new national framework agreement for the collection and disposal of clinical waste from GP surgeries and unwanted medicines from pharmacies. NHS England is responsible for funding and arranging these services on behalf of GPs and pharmacies and more information can be found on the National Framework Agreement for Clinical Waste Services for GPs and Pharmacies page.

However, NHS Property Services will continue to manage clinical waste contracts for tenants based within an NHS Property Services owned/managed building. If you are a GP, pharmacist or other tenant based within an NHS Property Services owned/managed building and you have a query regarding your clinical waste contract, please contact your local FM Business Manager.

For pharmacists

When does this affect me? Changes aren’t happening straight away. The framework will be available from April 2016 but implementation will be phased over the next 18 months. Your local team will contact you to let you know when any changes might be happening in your area.

How will this affect me? The only changes we expect for your pharmacy may be a change of supplier and perhaps some changes to the operational running of contracts, for example collection days. Your local team will be in touch and will be working with you and your supplier to ensure a smooth transition.

What are the benefits for me? For the first time all suppliers are expected to meet the same standards no matter where they are in the country. As part of a rigorous procurement exercise, suppliers chosen were required to meet a range of quality standards. Suppliers will be assessed and monitored against a range of key performance indicators as part of their four year agreement.

As part of their contract, suppliers are required to provide ongoing training for those working in pharmacies. This will help ensure a smooth transition when new suppliers and contracts are being mobilised and ensure that staff are aware of how to dispose of clinical waste appropriately and cost effectively.

Who has been involved in developing the framework? NHS England established a Clinical Waste Steering Group in 2014. It has included representatives from BMA’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) and The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC). The specification for the service has also been developed with external technical specialists and representatives from NHS England.

What do we need to do? You don’t need to do anything at this stage. Your local NHS England team will contact you and inform you of what is happening and when.

Are unwanted medicines still going to be collected and disposed of? Yes. These will continue to be funded by NHS England.

I accept patient returned sharps; do I need to do anything differently? Those pharmacists that accept returned sharps from patients should continue to follow the advice on the PSNC’s website.

Will I have to complete a new pre-acceptance waste audit as a result of any changes to the waste suppliers? No. Your pre-acceptance waste audit will remain valid until its expiry date. There may be a more streamlined template to use in the future but this will be communicated separately.

Will I be able to telephone and request an extra collection if I receive a sudden and unexpected large return? Yes, your local NHS England team will provide the new contact details if they change.

Will I now be able to send waste from nurses, GPs or nursing homes with the unwanted medicines from households? No, the service specification remains the same. The contract applies only to unwanted medicines returned from households and care homes, and the dispensary stocks that are held for dispensing purposes which become obsolete. These other producers of waste must make their own arrangements.

For GPs

How will I know when this will affect me?

Changes aren’t happening straight away. The framework will be available from April 2016 but implementation will be phased over the next 18 months. Your local team will contact you to let you know when any changes might be happening in your area. NHS England is responsible for funding the collection and disposal of clinical waste on behalf of GPs. If you manage your own contract with a waste supplier see question below.

How will this affect me?

The only changes we expect for your practice may be a change of supplier and perhaps some changes to the operational running of contracts, for example collection days. Your local team will be in touch and will be working with you and your supplier to ensure a smooth transition.

I have my own contract with a waste provider? What does this mean for me? Should I be doing anything? Will I still get reimbursed?

If you manage your own clinical waste contract, this will not affect you. However there are lots of benefits to moving to the new framework and you may wish to consider this when your current contract expires or sooner if you can. The BMA’s GPC has been involved in developing the specification for the service and have welcomed the framework as a way of bringing consistent standards across the country. You can find our more by reading our factsheet or contacting your local NHS England team.

Those GP practices that don’t have their waste collections arranged by NHS England can continue to claim reimbursement of those costs under paragraph 46 of the NHS (General Medical Services – premises costs) Directions 29143. This is not changing.

What are the benefits for my practice?

For the first time all suppliers are expected to meet the same standards no matter where they are in the country. As part of a procurement exercise, suppliers chosen were required to meet a range of quality standards. Suppliers will be assessed and monitored against a range of key performance indicators as part of their four year agreement.

As part of their contract, suppliers are required to provide ongoing training for those working in GP practices. This will help ensure a smooth transition when new suppliers and contracts are being mobilised and ensure that staff are aware of how to dispose of clinical waste appropriately and cost effectively.

Will I have to complete a new pre-acceptance waste audit as a result of any changes to the waste suppliers?

No. You are not expected to complete new pre-acceptance waste audits as a result of changes to your supplier. New audits are only required once existing ones have expired.