New hygiene certification means UK laundries can help healthcare sector through C-19 crisis
Over thirty hospitality laundries have already signed up to a new certification scheme that will allow them to help the UK’s health and social care system manage the increasing amount of dirty linens and textiles that is being created by the Covid-19 pandemic. The demand is expected to rise 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.
Textile Services Association (TSA), which represents the UK’s commercial laundries, has developed the scheme in consultation with NHSI (NHS Improvement) and other Government departments. Called the Interim Healthcare Laundry Certification (IHLC), it gives laundries that normally serve the hospitality sector a fast track to the specialist standards of hygiene required by the NHS, care homes and other medical facilities.
“C-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.”
Under normal circumstances, laundries that want to service the healthcare sector need to achieve BS EN 14065 certification. This is the standard that specifies the appropriate approach to managing bio-contamination risks and providing fit-for-purpose textiles with sufficient microbiological quality. However, the urgent requirement for more laundry capacity, due to C-19, led to the creation of the new, fast track certification.
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.
“We want to ensure the laundry industry is ready to service the increasing needs of the healthcare sector,” says Stevens. “We are delighted that so many laundries have already taken up the scheme, and we expect more to follow.”
There will be even more need for this support, with the massive increase in healthcare laundry requirements as the UK switches from disposable PPE gowns to reusable ones. “It’s something we’ve been campaigning for over the last few months,” says Stevens. “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 C-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 Stevens. “The new interim certification will ensure these laundries are meeting the strict standards healthcare demands.”
The TSA’s guidance document, Interim Healthcare Laundry Certification / Response to COVID-19, is available to download here.