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Hospital boilers saved from EU clampdown

Proposed changes to European laws which could have led to NHS trusts facing massive costs for running standby boilers have been halted.

Conservative MEP Caroline Jackson tabled an amendment to block the move during a debate at the European Parliament on revisions to the European directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control.

The amendment which was backed by 471 votes to 169 will ensure that boilers used in healthcare facilities will only be subject to emission controls based on the amount of time they
run rather than on notional full time running.

Dr Jackson said: “Subjecting them to the full force of the emission controls established in the directive would have made them uneconomic to run because they would have needed major modifications.

“NHS boilers should never have been put at risk by this directive. The commission is still failing to fully investigate the unintended consequences some of their proposals can have before it brings them forward.

“This amendment has saved the NHS a great deal of money that is clearly better spent on patient care rather than satisfying Brussels.”

The proposed directive will create a permit system to prevent and limit pollution from large-scale industrial installations.

But, Dr Jackson was worried the directive’s proposal to assess industrial boilers on the basis of their potential emissions, rather than their actual emissions would have left hospitals having to cover substantial costs to obtain a permit.

She argued this could have had serious implications for up to 70 hospital trusts due to their reliance on spare boiler capacity to cope with fluctuations in demand or potential technical failures.

She said they would have been faced with the stark choice of paying the huge extra permit costs or shutting down boilers.

Another amendment tabled by Dr Jackson aimed at reducing bureaucracy on emission limits was defeated.

She had argued a proposed European Safety Net should be dropped as the European wide system of uniform emission levels and consumption levels would be costly and burdensome.

She said: “We wanted the existing Best Available Techniques (BAT) method, where national environment agencies tailor emission standards to what a plant can manage.”