AN EXPERIENCED nurse quit her job in anger after she was ordered to carry used swabs and bandages in her own car.
Rosemary Robinson, 53, spent 11 years as a district nurse, treating patients in their own homes in and around Huddersfield.
But she resigned after her employer, Kirklees Community Healthcare Services, which is part of the NHS Kirklees health trust, told all district nurses they would have to transport clinical waste themselves.
Mrs Robinson, of Long Lane in Honley, said: “I told them I would resign rather than carry clinical waste in my car because, whatever they say, it’s a risk.
“I felt so passionately about it, I couldn’t not resign.”
Clinical waste is waste produced directly from healthcare and is defined as items which may be hazardous and could cause infection.
It includes swabs, dressings and pharmaceutical products.
In the past, waste was bagged up in the patient’s home and collected by an authorised disposal service, working under contract for the NHS.
But the policy had to change because of the 2005 Hazardous Waste Regulations.
The regulations mean whoever produces the waste is responsible for managing it.
Mrs Robinson said the Government gave health trusts the option of employing a private contractor or having their own staff carry waste.
From June, sealed boxes were issued to Kirklees district nurses to put waste in.
But Mrs Robinson, whose main area of work was Marsden, said they were “totally inadequate.”
She added: “Can you imagine the stench in summer?
“The policy hasn’t been thought through properly, firstly by the Government and then by the trust.
“They don’t ask, they just push these policies on the people on the ground.
“I’m so demoralised by the situation and the people in Marsden were 100% behind me.”
She said there were other nurses who were unhappy about the situation but who were too worried about their jobs to speak out.
“This is why I have done what I’ve done, because I feel so strongly about it and I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I don’t have to work,” she added.
“Other people have mortgages to pay and children to feed.”
But Andy Law, a representative for the Royal College of Nursing, which represents nurses, said health bosses had worked with staff before introducing the new policy.
He said: “They do want nurses to move a small amount of infectious waste, but we have worked with the nurses to find the best way possible to do this.
“In the main there are only one or two who are still dissatisfied.
“The trust has done a reasonable job in managing the change.”
And Robert Flack, managing director of Kirklees Community Healthcare Services, defended the decision.
He said: “I’m disappointed that Rosemary has chosen to air her opposition to this policy publicly and especially without referring to the considerable consultation and co-operation which took place with the relevant union representatives at the time.
“Great consideration was given to health and safety and risk management issues relating to the safety of district nurses before the decision was taken and the unions fully supported us in this decision.
“There have not been any adverse incidents reported relating to district nurses carrying infectious waste in their cars and the worries that some of them had have not materialised.
“I would like to stress that this policy relates to small quantities of infectious waste. If a patient generates a large quantity then home collection by a contractor is arranged.
“Rosemary was encouraged not to resign over this issue after many years of service.
“At the time she was offered support by her line manager and the human resources team who have invited her to meet with them and discuss the issues she has with this policy.”