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GP mythbuster 76: Health care waste

  • Organisations we regulate,
  • GP and GP out-of-hours services

We have had questions from GP practices over the management of clinical waste.

When we ask how safe a practice is, as part of KLOE S3, we ask: “Do the arrangements for managing waste and clinical specimens keep people safe? (This includes classification, segregation, storage, labelling and handling of waste.)”

GP practices have a statutory duty of care that requires all reasonable measures to be taken to deal with waste appropriately from the point of production to final disposal.

Healthcare Technical Memorandum (HTM) 07-01 ‘Safe Management of Healthcare Waste‘ provides a framework for best practice and will ensure legislative requirements such as the Health and Safety at Work regulations are met. In addition, the Code of Practice on infection control states that a registered provider’s policy on infection control should include a section on safe handling and disposal of waste.

The practice is responsible for ensuring that healthcare waste is:

  • correctly segregated and labelled
  • packaged appropriately for transport
  • stored safely and securely
  • described accurately and fully on relevant documentation
  • transferred to an authorised person for transport to an authorised waste site.

Good practice

Waste bins should be:

  • positioned where they are easily accessible to staff
  • lidded and operated with a foot-pedal if in clinical areas and toilets (to prevent hand contamination)

Waste bags should be:

  • no more than two thirds full so the bag can be tied securely
  • securely tied using a plastic tie or secure knot.

All waste bags and sharps containers should be:

  • labelled with the address and date before collection so they can be traced if there is an incident
  • stored in a designated area while awaiting collection – this must be kept secure from entry by members of the public, animals or pests.

Sharps containers awaiting collection should not be placed inside waste bags and must be processed separately by the contractor.

Sharps containers

Ensure that sharps are disposed of in the correct container.

  • Purple-lidded: cytotoxic and cytostatic medicinally-contaminated sharps; for example, hormone-containing medicines such as contraceptive injections, Goserelin (Zoladex) and testosterone (Nebido). HTM 07-01 (page 167) gives a full list of relevant medicines.
  • Yellow-lidded: other medicinally-contaminated sharps.
  • Orange-lidded: non medicinally-contaminated sharps, for example stitch cutters and venepuncture equipment.

Complete labels on sharps receptacles on assembly and locking. Receptacles should not be filled above the black line. They should be locked and stored ready for collection three months after first use even if not full.

Last updated:
28 April 2021