Southampton General Hospital may close its on-site laundry as the trust cannot afford the £2.3million investment in buildings and services that the operation needs.

Laundry staff would have liked the trust to keep the existing site and seek outside investment, but Tim Cronin, head of supplies and facilities at the Southampton University NHS Trust, said it is seeking to move the laundry off site. A consideration was that the existing site would then be available for other planned services.

Mr Cronin said the trust would carry out a test market with an off-site provider.

It has identified two NHS trusts with spare capacity and three commercial laundries have shown strong interest. The test market is expected to last around four months. The bids will then be evaluated along with the test and the board will then make the final decision.

He had little doubt that the service would move to an off-site contractor, but he also said that the trust was confident of deploying laundry staff elsewhere on site.