This may bring benefits but inevitably NHS savings will impact on laundry and linen hire service providers whether in-house or external. Hospital customers will need to become more stringent in their demands and monitor performance of service providers to try and maintain quality while demanding that service charges are minimised.

Waste should not be tolerated nor should sub-standard work. At the recent conference of the Society of Hospital Linen Services and Laundry Managers, Reg Ramsden pointed out the cost of rejected work, quoting a rate £2.61 for 9 sub-standard sheets in a cage – which on a yearly basis could typically cost over £5,394 over a year.

Against this background, requests for increased charges are unlikely to receive a favourable answer but service providers too are facing a cost challenge – from rising textile prices, from increased utility charges and higher transport costs.

Providers operating on a commercial basis and in a highly competitive market are feeling their margins squeezed even harder, so quality becomes more difficult to maintain.

While the efficiency argument applies to suppliers as well as customers, supplying quality also has a cost and the ability to absorb cost increases does have a limit.

There are areas where the two sides can help each other improve efficiency – such as reducing linen loss and misuse, in particular linen that goes missing when patients are discharged or die or is hoarded (on a just-in case basis).

Education too can help, making end-user customers aware of how linen costs accrue. The conflict between rising costs and pressured budgets is mirrored in the wider market.

There are no easy solutions. Communication and co-operation are needed but each supplier/customer partnership will inevitably be tested more severely as the impact of budget cuts hits both in the healthcare laundry sector and beyond.