First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has said that the proposed closure of half of Scotland’s hospital laundries may not proceed if the move jeopardises efforts to control coronavirus.
The SNP leader intervened in the row about NHS plans to close four of the eight laundries in mainland Scotland, saying coronavirus will be “very much a factor in deciding the best way forward”.
According to reports in the Scottish media, a business case was originally thought to be going before local health chiefs in November but newly-released documents show the proposal would go before NHS board chief executives for approval by April.
More than 500 staff work in the service across Scotland. NHS bosses believe the shake-up will save up to £2.7 million a year, which is around 12% of laundry operating costs.
According to internal memos, the centralisation plan is “designed to inform the provision of a future laundry service for NHS Scotland that is efficient is efficient, effective and sustainable”.
The eight laundries under review are 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.
A spokesman for NHS National Services Scotland said: “The National Laundry Programme Board is conducting a thorough analysis of laundry production unit functions.
“The plan is to ensure the provision of a future laundry service for NHS Scotland that is efficient, effective and sustainable.”
Fresh concerns about the move were raised in the Scottish Parliament in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking on 5 March, Ms Sturgeon said: “The Laundry Programme Board has been seeking to develop a new action plan to ensure that services are safe and sustainable.
“No proposals relating to this have come to ministers to consider. We have been waiting for NHS chief executives to review the business case.
“Of course the final decision will be taken by the cabinet secretary for health.
“She has already said, I think, but if not I will say it today, that the current and emerging situation with coronavirus will be very much a factor in deciding the best way forward for this.
“There will be no plans approved by the Scottish Government that we think in any way puts at risk the steps we have to take to deal with this situation.”