The managers’ annual conference had expected Paul Cryer of NHS Estates to reveal a new linen standard to be introduced as part of the NHS Plan to improve the patient environment. However, Cryer said that the election announcement had prevented the standard going ahead, and as some Estates functions will eventually pass to the Department of Health, any advice will now be issued simply as guidance.

Civil servants must follow strict pre-election rules, so Cryer could not release what had now become a consultation document, merely wave it around.

However, Phil Liversidge, society president had been allowed to see it to get preliminary feedback from conference and it was then that he revealed the proposed minimum levels of acceptability for staining, tears, holes and repairs. Cryer did say that he would expect averages in practice to be around half the level, but the audience hardly seemed reassured. Why bother with a rewash programme if nearly one third of linen is allowed to be returned with staining?

And at this stage, other parts of the document would seem to be in need of reconsideration.

Phil Liversidge expressed concern that advice related to ten-year old guidelines (HSG(95)18) that had preceded the question of hospital acquired infections. The document still regards professional laundering of nurses uniforms as a matter for individual trusts and fails to recommend any national policy, despite the findings of the Watt report.

Still the guidance is up for discussion, and the society will be feeding back comments in greater detail. No doubt it awaits the final document with interest.

Janet Taylor