Over 30 hospitality sector laundries have signed up to a new certification scheme introduced to boost capacity in the system for laundry services to the specialist standards of hygiene required by the NHS, care homes and other medical facilities.
The Interim Healthcare Laundry Certification scheme (IHLC), developed by Textile Services Association (TSA) in consultation with NHS Improvement (NHSI) and other government departments, will enable hospitality laundries to help the NHS manage the increasing volumes of dirty linens and textiles being created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NHS demand for laundry services is expected to rise further in the coming weeks, considering the Government strategy to move from disposable to reusable PPE gowns. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care is looking to use commercial laundries to ensure all adult social care facilities have access to hygienically cleaned and safe linens and textiles.
“COVID-19 has created unprecedented levels of healthcare laundry, which requires specialist processing,” says David Stevens, CEO of the TSA. “The increase was in the order of half a million PPE gowns every day at the peak of this pandemic. Plus there are the uniforms, towels, bed linen and patients’ clothes. To cope with that, the UK needs more specialist laundries.”
To achieve the Interim Healthcare Laundry Certification, laundries need to meet the requirements of the Department of Health’s technical memorandum HTM 01-04: Decontamination of Linen for Health and Social Care. This provides a clear path for commercial laundries to prove they consistently decontaminate healthcare linen and manage related risks to patient safety. The TSA has published a guidance document, Interim Healthcare Laundry Certification / Response to COVID-19, which gives full details on how laundries can meet these requirements.
The certification scheme fast tracks the process; under normal circumstances laundries servicing the healthcare sector need to achieve BS EN 14065 certification.
The move from disposable to reusable gowns
This support from the hospitality sector will be even more necessary as laundry requirements increase significantly in the switch from disposable PPE gowns to reusable ones. “It’s something we’ve been campaigning for over the last few months,” says David. “Reusable gowns are just as safe, they are much cheaper in the long run and they are better for the environment – disposable PPE is creating millions of tonnes of clinical waste.
“We’ve been working with the Cabinet Office and NHSI as they switch supply away from single-use to these more robust and sustainable multi-use products. At the same time, we’ve been talking to the DHSC in the first steps towards a long-term partnership with the aim of bringing hygienically safe textile services to all the UK’s healthcare sectors, including adult social care facilities. We now need to ensure that every healthcare facility in the country can have a certified laundry service.”
The hospitality laundry sector has been crushed by the COVID-19 lockdown, which saw virtually 100% of its business disappear overnight as hotels, restaurants and sports facilities closed. “The good news for the UK is that there is plenty of capacity in the commercial laundry industry, so we can cope with the increased demand from the health sector,” says David. “The new interim certification will ensure these laundries are meeting the strict standards healthcare demands.”