This year’s Society of Hospital Linen Service and Laundry Managers (SHLSLM) Forum took place at the Village Hotel Dudley, West Midlands, on 28-29 September and started with a tribute from chair Dave Grimshaw to the late President of the Society, John Gallagher, who sadly passed away earlier this year, followed by a minute’s silence in his memory. Grimshaw said: “He had been President of the Society since 2009. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.”

Pre-Forum, the National Executive Council announced: “We are pleased to advise that following our recent NEC meeting, we have elected a new president for the Society in time for this year’s Forum.

“We have chosen Ron Mclean, who has an unrivalled record of attending forums and a wealth of experience within our industry, while recently working with the committee in the promotion of the Society.” Sam McKay steps ups to a council in the new position of PR manager.

The three pillars of the Forum presentation were built on infection control, procurement and shared service partnership for NHS laundries. Three key speakers were on hand to share their knowledge and expertise with the delegates.

Simon Ellison, technical product leader, infection prevention, Ecolab Healthcare presented on ‘Pillows, Patients and Potting Shed’ –The infection prevention and environmental benefits of embracing barrier filter technology in healthcare. Pillows are not the benign comfort aids you might think but hold a sinister and rather worrying secret as a breeding ground for harmful pathogens.

Gary Turner, category manager corporate, Directorate Peninsula Purchasing and Supply Alliance NHS, spoke on the subject of ‘Laundry and linen service procurement and its challenges’. He told delegates the organisation aims to “deliver procurement excellence across the healthcare economy and through stakeholder engagement enable active collaboration and continuous improvement”.

Presenting ‘All Wales Laundry Service’, Ollie Rix, business manager laundry service at NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership explained how he and his colleagues are taking the five laundries in NHS Wales towards implementation of BS EN 140065. They were no longer fit for purpose with aging and obsolete facilities, infrastructure and equipment and did not comply with best practice guidance, Rix said. Plans are to reduce the number of laundries from five to three and implement a resilient All Wales laundry network with utilisation of stock and work transferred between LPUs in the event of plant failure. A four-year laundry engineering apprenticeship scheme in each of the laundries has been put in place along with sharing of best practice across sites.

Open discussion

The afternoon open discussion forum hosted by the Society Committee was open and frank. Top of linen managers’ concerns in these unprecedented times was continuity of supply so they were worried about the supply chain problems Answering a query about lead times for imports of linen taking into account the effects of the Ukraine war, Covid, China shutting down, floods in Pakistan, container costs, suppliers did not have a lot of good news. Container prices are slightly down on what they were last year but with product on a ship halfway round the world, there could be two or three changes of delivery date. And if that isn’t frustrating enough the ship might not dock in Southampton or Felixstowe but end up in Frankfurt. And, after Brexit, any container destined for the UK will be very quickly ‘prioritised’ to the bottom of the pile. Brexit has also generated more paper work, was the genral consensus.

“Costs may be down slightly, but it is taking more time to organise,” said one supplier. It used to be a quick fix…but there is much more paperwork. The again, product can be delayed en route and sent to a different port. You also have to take into account energy costs, load shedding – some shippers have reduced from a six day week to a five day week. Lead time now? It is a minimum of 16 weeks (sometimes 20 weeks) where it used to be 12. And now we are looking at possible strikes at Felixstowe.”

As for the cotton harvest in Pakistan after the floods, there have been reports that yield is down 30%, said a supplier. Another added that prices have reduced but that is for a previous harvest. “We will know when the next batch is due in six to nine months,” he said.

Representatives from laundry equipment manufacturers reported waiting over a year for a components order which has still not arrived. Two specifically mentioned waiting 18 months for touch screens and there is a six month waiting list for chips.

  • For the latest on linen procurement generally in the face of these difficulties see opposite page.