The NHS loses over 80 percent of its linen every year. It’s a massive drain on resources and very much against sustainability targets. Now the Textile Services Association (TSA) is working with the NHS to put together a programme to help reduce the level of wastage.
Around 90 percent of the NHS’s linen, which includes bed sheets, pillowcases, and surgical gowns, is actually owned by commercial laundries, so TSA members are acutely aware of the wastage issue – and the stats. Typically a laundry will supply the linen, collect it when dirty, then sort it, wash it, repair or replace it if required, and then return it. The NHS losses amount to four million pieces of linen, which equates to 7,600 tonnes of carbon. It’s not just the textiles that are lost – to manufacture those four million lost pieces will have taken 24 billion litres of water, the equivalent of around 300 million full bathtubs.
“It’s a massive problem and a big black mark against the NHS’s own sustainability targets,” says David Stevens, CEO of the TSA. “A key issue is getting NHS staff to understand the value of the linen they use – a lot of the losses are due to misuse. For example, they shouldn’t be using bed linen to clean things or mop up spills.”
In conjunction with the NHS, the TSA is putting together training resources to help staff understand the value of linen and to explain what good (and bad) practice looks like. One poster shows how to make linen last longer, listing the types of stains that can render the textile unusable.
Another key issue the TSA is focusing on is disposable vs reusable gowns. “The sustainability argument is cut and dried,” says David. “A disposable gown can be used once, reusable gowns can be used 70 or more times, which makes them both economically and environmentally the best choice. At end of life, disposable gowns have to be disposed of, whereas reusable ones can be recycled.”
While around 30 percent of NHS estate uses reusable surgical gowns, this still leaves significant numbers that don’t.
David presented the TSA’s ideas at the recent Healthcare Facilities Management Conference. “The feedback we have had from NHS bosses has been very positive,” he says. “We are working with them to find the best way to educate and change attitudes, with the aim of delivering a more sustainable linen service for the NHS.”
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the TSA either via email or phone:
T +44 (0) 20 3151 5600