Norovirus and the flu are just two of the common disease outbreaks that care homes are particularly vulnerable to, which is why Hampshire-based Oak Lodge follows a strict infection control policy. The care home looks after elderly people with varied needs, from individuals too frail to live alone, to those who have impaired physical abilities after suffering from strokes. With an average age of 90 years’ old, Oak Lodge offers tailored care to each of its 60 residents, which makes processes such as managing infection control a challenge.

While residents receive different kinds of care, Oak Lodge’s infection control policy ensures that the clothing, bedding and towels of each individual are kept equally hygienic. It’s vital that a laundry backlog doesn’t build up so that soiled items are cleaned quickly and effectively to avoid the spread of infection.

However, this would be difficult without the sufficient fast and effective equipment given that nearly all residents are incontinent and there are a high number of soiled items. Laundry staff work from 8am until 3pm, spending the following two hours distributing the items across the home. That gives only a small window of time for all items to be washed thoroughly and then dried, before being returned to residents once clean and disinfected.

Forest Care, Oak Lodge’s parent company, ensures that the infection control policy followed by each of its four homes adapts and takes into account bug outbreaks that particularly pose a threat. A nurse from each home regularly meets to review the policy and decide if it should introduce new procedures, including laundry activity. For example, norovirus outbreaks over the past few years, including those suffered by 107 care homes in South West England in late 2017, caused nursing staff to adapt the policy, given that incontinent residents could cause the risk to spread. The home altered the procedures to ensure that all staff receive full training on how to wash items while meeting high infection control standards. Regular hand sanitisation was also made mandatory for staff, and visitors were also encouraged to use hand gel.

With items of clothing and bedding getting soiled at all times of the day and night and often when laundry staff are off duty, leaving items disinfected until the staff begin work again could lead to the disease spreading. It’s vital that Oak Lodge’s machines are easy to use so that caring and nursing staff can also carry out laundry in emergencies and eradicate any potentially harmful germs as quickly and effectively as possible.

Forest Care routinely upgrades the washing machines and tumble dryers in each of its homes to ensure that it only uses the highest quality and most efficient machines on the market, which can meet required standards of hygiene.

Allsop & Francis, Miele’s No. 1 Professional Partner in 2017, has supplied Forest Care’s laundry equipment for seven years.

When an upgrade was due, Allsop & Francis recommended the Miele PW 418 washing machine and the PT 8403 tumble dryer due to the large maximum load capacity of 20kg and the quick yet thorough cycles. Many items are soiled daily at Oak Lodge, so it was key to choose machines that would enable laundry staff to carry out washing and drying at the required pace.

The washing machine’s automatic door lock and the tumble dryer’s easy to clean large fluff filter ensured the appliances were simple enough for both laundry and non-laundry staff to use. Grace Adan, manager at Oak Lodge says, “We were confident that these two models could deliver on our demanding laundry requirements, so our company directors selected two of each model."

Allsop & Francis installed the new machines in just four hours, which minimised disruption to the laundry processes for that day and kept the threat of infection low. Their installation team gave a demonstration of the equipment to all employees, from laundry staff to carers. All staff were trained how to use the machines and get the full benefits of the features it offers, including the various programmes, such as sluice washes.

The machines wash at the temperatures required by the HTM (Health Technical Memorandum) 01-04 guideline, which specifically defines the decontamination of linen for health and social care. Under HTM-01-04, bed linen used in care environments must be washed and held at various times and temperatures throughout the cycle; 10 minutes at 65C or over, three minutes at 75C or over and one minute at 85C or over. The Miele PW 418 washing machine enable Oak Lodge to wash bed linen at these temperatures.

Oak Lodge’s stringent laundry processes ensure that residents’ vulnerability to infection is kept to a minimum. Thanks to the capacity and speed of the machines, laundry staff meet their 3pm washing deadline daily without fail, preventing contaminated items from building up and spreading infection. Given that the washing machines offer programmes that can disinfect heavily soiled items, Miele has helped Oak Lodge meet its own cleanliness policy, which in turn enables it to conform to NHS infection control guidelines.

All employees, from laundry staff to carers, are well-educated on how to operate the machines having received a full briefing. They can reap the full benefits of the machines and easily select the right wash programme according to how soiled items are. Receiving an ‘outstanding’ rating in its latest Care Quality Commission report, Oak Lodge has proved itself as a home that provides a clean environment for the elderly.

Grace Adan says: “We don’t treat our laundry facility as just an overhead – it plays a key part in how we deliver care at Oak Lodge. It’s vital for us to have machines and tumble dryers that can carry out laundry quickly and to a high standard, without compromising on either of those two vital factors. We strive to be on top of our laundry so that our already vulnerable residents aren’t faced with the threat of infection. The Miele appliances fitted by Allsop & Francis have helped us make this a reality.”