UK care homes are being challenged on their ability to meet hygiene standards
The laundry process in care homes is weak. If they were audited to the current hygiene standard (HTM- 01-04), most care homes would find it unattainable.”
That is the concern of the Textiles Services Association, whose CEO Derek Stevens has challenged care homes over their ability to meet HTM-01-04. He says concerns centre around process flow and the facility: “Care homes need the space to be able to keep dirty and clean linen separate, and to have a routine in place that ensures there can be no cross contamination.” He also believes there are gaps across the spectrum in staff training.
Recently, his concerns have been shared by St Ives MP Derek Thomas who, in October 2023 asked the then care minister Helen Whately: “Whether the Department for Health and Social Care had made an
assessment of the potential merits of directing the Care Quality Commission to assess the adequacy of care home laundry hygiene standards.” In response Whately quoted the fundamental standards as set out in Regulation 15 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.
In Belgium, in common with most European countries, the care home laundry service is predominantly outsourced. This compares to the UK where over 80 per cent of care homes still launder on site. On a recent fact-finding mission in Belgium, the TSA heard that outsourcing has become the norm because it is technically quite challenging for care homes to process in-house and meet stringent national hygiene standards.
In Europe, there is also more recognition of the significant economies of scale and capital investment that feature in commercial laundries and which boost their sustainability.
Commercial operations can be as much as ten times more efficient in terms of water consumption, and up to four times more efficient in their use of energy, compared to onsite laundries in care homes.
Although ready to support UK care homes on the transition to outsourcing, the TSA says the key challenge here for the commercial laundry industry is the size of the care home sector, which is five times that of the NHS.
Although many commercial laundries are already set up to service NHS business, Stevens said: “The huge volumes involved in the care home sector are a big issue.”
New guidance coming soon
In the UK, the TSA has researched care homes to gauge behavioural patterns and priorities when it comes to laundering for residents. The detailed results are due to be published soon, along with new training and guidance resources for care homes.