East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust provides acute hospital and community health services for people living in East Sussex and surrounding areas. Employing over 7,200 dedicated staff, the trust comprises eight hospitals and five clinics. Stericycle has been managing the trust’s clinical waste since 2009 and in 2013 introduced its Bio Systems Sharps Management service, working closely with staff to maximise its potential benefits.
Positive response from staff
Prior to the implementation of Stericycle’s Bio Systems Sharps Management service, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust was using single-use containers for the disposal of sharps waste. These containers were taking up storage space and monitoring the supply of these containers was taking up valuable time.
In September 2013, the trust decided to trial the managed Bio Systems service in four key areas, including theatres, intensive care units, emergency departments and surgical assessment units. After the first month of the trial an evaluation was carried out, finding that 84 per cent of users wanted to continue with Bio Systems rather than return to traditional single-use sharps containers.
The cost savings of the service were also significant. For the areas trialled at the start alone, when compared with single-use containers Bio Systems saves the trust £12,000 per annum.
The trust went on to implement Bio Systems across multiple other locations within its acute hospitals and community hospitals.
Providing an end-to-end service
The fully managed option of the Bio Systems service sees trained Stericycle technicians collect full sharps containers from the trust’s sites, eliminating the need for ward staff to handle the containers themselves. The technician replaces them with clean, disinfected containers.
Once collected from customer premises, filled Bio Systems containers are taken to Stericycle’s treatment facility where they are opened, emptied and disinfected using an automated wash-line featuring state-of-the-art robotics. Following this process, the containers are meticulously inspected and reassembled before they are returned to the trust for reuse.
For each Bio Systems container used, up to 600 single-use containers are prevented from being incinerated. For a typical 1200-bed trust, this saves 11.5 tonnes of CO2 per annum. The increased sustainability offered by Bio Systems was a big draw for the trust.
Working closely with staff
Leaders at the trust were proactive in involving staff members across different wards and departments before, during and after the implementation of Bio Systems. Kevin Hodge, assistant facilities manager at the trust, explains: “Clinical and nursing staff members are the best experts to choose what suits their requirements, as they are the ones using the containers.”
The waste team at the trust attended infection control link nurse meetings to demonstrate the use of Bio Systems and invite feedback. The team engaged with nominated infection control champions across the trust to understand ward-level requirements for sharps disposal. Feedback from risk assessments is used as a benchmarking tool to ascertain the best locations for Bio Systems containers.
Members from the trust’s waste team visited the Bio Systems wash-line in Leeds, where they were given an insight into the technology behind the service. The trust also has a ‘waste’ section on its intranet that hosts a Bio Systems video, helping staff members understand the process and technology behind the service.
Stericycle worked with clinical staff members across all departments to establish exact requirements for Bio Systems container sizes, lid types, and accessories, as each department has different needs depending on the types of items being disposed.
The design of the containers makes them convenient for staff, says Gill Tanner, senior sister, quality and practice development: “The new containers are far easier to use, especially as we can put everything in the 30.2 litre containers and operate them hands-free thanks to the foot pedal. They’re also good for us as we can see when the contents are approaching the fill line. The staff particularly like the containers that can be fixed to the side of the trolleys because they free up space on the trolley surface.” Gill says one of the main benefits of the new containers for her is that there’s no longer a need to “remind staff to fill in labels on the containers”.
Kevin says they hope to continue implementing the service across the organisation: “The trust envisages using Bio Systems containers in all areas where they can be physically placed, and where they meet the needs of clinical and nursing staff.”