NHS chiefs have launched a fresh review into the future of Scotland’s hospital laundries after they were threatened with closure before the pandemic.
Health service bosses confirmed that “all options” were being considered, but they insisted they did not expect any of the facilities to shut “at this point”.
We revealed in 2019 that proposals had been drawn up to axe half of the hospital laundries in mainland Scotland, potentially cutting the total from eight to four.
The eight laundries under review were located at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, Borders General Hospital, Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, St John’s Hospital in Livingston, Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, the West of Scotland Laundry in Wishaw and Hillington Laundry in Glasgow.
Trade union leaders and opposition politicians vowed to fight any centralisation of the service, which employs more than 500 staff across Scotland.
The shake-up, which was designed to save up to £2.7 million a year, is thought to have been paused after ministers raised concerns at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
John Wright, assistant director at NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), has now confirmed to us that a further review is being carried out to consider the future of the laundries.
“We are working with partners to review the proposed arrangements for laundry provision within NHS Scotland,” he said.
“This will ensure that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is thoroughly considered and that laundry services going forward fully meet the current and future needs of NHS Scotland.
“All options that safeguard service, achieve resilience and deliver best value will be considered.
“It is not anticipated at this point that any laundries will close and we will consider all the review recommendations in collaboration with associated NHS boards.”
It is not anticipated at this point that any laundries will close and we will consider all the review recommendations in collaboration with associated NHS boards.”
Mr Wright said the previous plans would not progress until the new review had been carried out.
“A recent update was given to NHS Scotland (NHSS) chief executives on the laundry position and highlighted the need for further review based on Covid activity and that we were not intending to take forward the business case in any form until this work had been completed,” he said.
“The review will focus on the key priority areas identified by NHSS that will result in a supplementary strategic document that covers a three to five year period.
“This document should assist in identifying the gaps required to be addressed to ensure laundries are fit for purpose and will provide laundries with a clear prioritised plan of what is required to meet future demands (future service model).”
Unison organiser Willie Duffy, the trade union’s head of health in Scotland, said the ongoing coronavirus crisis underlined the importance of a service that plays a vital role in preventing the spread of disease.
“We will oppose any laundry closures, and indeed the current pandemic has demonstrated why we need more laundries rather than less laundries,” he said.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Annie Wells also called for the services to be retained and supported with investment.
“NHS staff throughout our health service have helped save lives during this pandemic,” she said.
“Laundry services have proven critical in preventing the virus from spreading to some of the most vulnerable patients in our hospitals.
Laundry services have proven critical in preventing the virus from spreading to some of the most vulnerable patients in our hospitals.”
“It was right that the review process was stopped as the pandemic struck.
“While a review is welcome to maintain the highest possible standards in our NHS boards, it is concerning that laundry services may still be on the table in terms of potentially looking to cut costs.
“That threatens vital jobs and livelihoods as our health service continues to fight the pandemic and begins to remobilise.”