THE disposal firm facing a probe over a pile-up of health service waste is taking the NHS to court for £15 million.

Gary Pettigrew says his North Lanarkshire company Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) has been “left with no choice” over cancelled contracts with 17 NHS trusts in Yorkshire.

The deals were terminated following reports that tonnes of clinical waste had been piled up by HES at its sites, instead of being incinerated.

England’s Environment Agency has taken enforcement action against the Shotts company, which employs 400 people, and a criminal investigation has begun.

But the firm – which retains its Scottish NHS work – says it was forced to hold discarded items due to a lack of incineration capacity and denies any wrongdoing.

It is now seeking “upwards of £15m” for the “unlawful” termination of the contracts.

Pettigrew said: “We feel that we have been left with no choice but to take legal action against the trusts after the terms of the agreed contracts were broken. Our contracts were terminated without first discussing any performance issues with the company and we were given no opportunity to fulfil our obligations.

“We are now taking this action to safeguard the company and our employees’ future, and to give us an opportunity to correct some of the misinformation that has been reported.”

A spokesperson said HES first requested a dispensation to continue the safe storage of medical waste above agreed limits in January as it sought to “safely dispose of clinical waste in a planned and phased programme”.

A statement said: “This situation had been caused by a proven lack of high-temperature incineration capacity in the UK, combined with the pressure on NHS trusts not to send waste to landfill and is affecting all medical waste contractors.”

Last month, UK Health Minister Stephen Barclay told MPs that, according to NHS Improvement, HES had “failed to demonstrate that they were operating within their contractual limits”.

And the Environment Agency UK said the company had breached storage and volume rules at four of six English sites handling clinical waste.

However, more than 30 other contracts with English NHS trusts remain in place.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is continuing to monitor HES sites in both Dundee and Shotts two months after issuing enforcement notices.