NHS European Office

European Healthcare Waste Management Project

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The NHS Confederation and the NHS European Office became partners in a European-wide project to develop a new healthcare waste management qualification framework and e-learning platform. 

The new qualification framework will enable the European workforce in the waste management sector to gain a standardised set of skills, regardless of the member state in which they undertake the vocational training programme, leading to greater mobility for these workers within Europe.

The three-year project - EHCWM - was co-funded by the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme and drew partners from eleven different European countries with a high level of technical expertise from both the state and private healthcare sectors, including the United Kingdom. 

The key aims of the project were to

  • develop a standardised European vocational training programme for healthcare workers in waste management
  • develop associated training materials for the training programme
  • develop an e-learning platform to deliver the training programme and
  • the establishment of an European wide network of waste and healthcare professionals.

The project concluded at the end of 2016. Activities in 2016 included the establishment of an ongoing professional network of healthcare waste experts, to which we invited contacts from HOSPEEM, HOPE and CEEP. Our office actively disseminated the project’s deliverables and assisted in planning and delivering the stakeholder conference in Birmingham that closed the project at the end of 2016. 

The final newsletter for the project is now available. It provides information on the final conference and outlines some of the work to be carried out in 2017.

Why is the NHS involved in this project?

The NHS is a major producer of waste, including hazardous and clinical waste, and better waste management would deliver significant financial and environmental benefits. A RCN report identifies the potential for cost savings to the NHS and the value of appointing and training dedicated waste managers to improve outcomes By developing quality on the job training, the NHS could:

  • cut costs
  • improve patient and staff safety
  • protect the environment.

The European Commission funded a project to develop and promulgate standardised vocational qualifications in healthcare waste management which is transferable/recognised throughout the EU. The NHS European Office was one of 12 partner organisations in 11 European countries involved in the project, which developed a training programme/award for healthcare waste managers.

Project deliverables

E-learning portal

The portal has two versions: one to provide training for healthcare waste managers in countries where there is an absence of vocational training, and a second version for countries such as the UK where the training will fit into an existing vocational qualification framework. For this second group of countries, there will be three distinct qualifications available: healthcare waste manager; healthcare waste treatment manager; and healthcare waste transport manager.  The award will be a degree level vocational qualification.

Professional networks

The aim is to develop a network of interested experts working in the field of healthcare waste across European countries. The network would provide members with an online “platform” to share expertise, solve problems and exchange good practice and could include different kinds of stakeholders: healthcare waste managers in both the public and private sectors, environmental specialists/consultants, contractors dealing with waste treatment and transport, vocational trainers, and equipment suppliers. 

Developing Draft standards

Development a set of vocational training units based on common standards and aligned with the European Qualifications Framework, with training modules which will deliver the required qualification.  

WHO guidance for managers of health waste

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed a comprehensive global guidance document, “Safe management of wastes from health-care activities”, aimed at managers of hospitals and other health-care facilities, policy makers, public health professionals and managers involved in waste management. It provides comprehensive guidance on safe, efficient, and environmentally sound methods for the handling and disposal of health-care waste in normal situations and emergencies. 

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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