David Stevens, CEO of the Textile Services Association (TSA) looks back over the week since his last update, bringing the industry up to speed on the latest developments. “Recent highlights,” he said, “have been the small laundry webinars with 65 participants, gradual progress in the lobbying effort for hospitality status and the dialogue we have started with UK Hospitality.

“The disappointment has been the lack of progress we are making with the various Government bodies with regard to the gowns project which could save over £50m per week (compared with disposable product). Each department states they are going to do it, but nothing happens.  However, we won’t give up as it feels so right! 

“We continue to get loads of calls and these are great as it enables the TSA to check we are going in the right direction and circulate the key findings to you all.”   

Hospitality Grant

“We have had further great news this week that a total of six English laundries and one in Wales have now received hospitality status and in turn received the hospitality grant and/or the business rate relief. All Scottish laundries already have the status. We shall keep a register of all successful laundries including their councils to help us all appeal and lobby further.

“Additionally, on Monday a TSA Template Hospitality Grant Letter was sent which can be used to assist when you request Hospitality Status or as part of your appeal to your local authority if you get turned down. We are also in the process of writing another open letter which will be published later this week with an aim to highlight the specifics of your laundry businesses. UK Hospitality has also agreed to include us in their lobbying efforts.”

Stevens exhorts the industry to keep lobbying for Hospitality Status as more and more laundries are being approved. “I believe we are not far away from our message being heard across all councils,” he said, adding that he is currently working on another Open Letter to the Government as he continues himself to lobby for support for the UK’s commercial laundry businesses.  

Risks of home washing healthcare and foodservice uniforms

TSA continues to work with DeMontfort University, and Stevens said it is definitely seeing some traction here. Dr Katie Laird has continued to do various interviews and was asked to do a webinar with some concerned nurses on Monday. Also, as some takeaway food chains start to plan their re-opening schedule there are definite opportunities to talk to them about staff uniforms and processing them. This was published by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in their reopening guidelines last week for all food takeaways. This is a good example of how the focus is changing to managed outsourced laundry services, said Stevens. “It is recommended as standard practice in food businesses that uniforms are laundered commercially.” This is a new Covid-19 guidance on reopening.

Reusable gowns

“This has been an extremely frustrating project to date. We first lobbied for this over four weeks ago and have spent hours on webinars with now more than 15 different officials from six different Government departments. There seems to be a genuine desire to move away from the 460,000 single use gowns a day to reusable, but getting any consensus on how to do it seems challenging.  I have recalculated the figures on the numbers they have given us and they would save over £500 million a year, 70 million tonnes of clinical waste, help support the UK laundry industry and deliver a fantastic service to the care homes, nursing homes and primary care facilities who are currently experiencing daily shortages.

“So far we have produced a detailed make-up spec for the new washable gown (with support from the key healthcare providers) and a detailed project plan but have now been asked to produce a positioning paper to BEIS so they can present to senior Government.

“We are also informed that they now have plenty of scrubs as everyone has been making them and they now have an oversupply. We are getting information that quite a few laundries are now processing additional work for the healthcare sector and please keep us informed of this as it does support our lobbying efforts.”

“Part of the project plan for processing the gowns is that we introduce a quality reference in relation to EN 14065/HTM 01-04 to enable a short-term solution which will enable hospitality laundries to support the demand to service reusable gowns. This has been scoped but until we get the green light on the project it is on hold.  However, we are still going to produce some guidance on processing healthcare products in a hospitality laundry.”

Re-opening/ramping up

TSA is also in the process of putting together a guidance document to assist in the re-opening/or existing operation of laundries. We are setting up a group with technical experts to look at the guidance required. If you feel that you may be able to contribute please let Shyju know at E:, and we shall schedule a call for Tuesday next week after Sunday’s Government announcement on the easing of the lockdown. While we do not expect to be the first, we are aware some laundries are still operating in some form and the guidance would help here as well.” 

Face masks – supply route support

“Face masks have become a hot topic during the latest COVID-19 discussions, not only in the UK but globally. It is not a requirement but as it is becoming compulsory in other countries, we believe the UK may follow suit. It may prove to be a vital product for your laundry staff to help keep themselves and others safe, and the clean garments safe. As we have been approached by many suppliers with regards to face masks, we are in the process of producing a document with a list of all the supply routes we have been informed of. This document will also include a summary of some of the standards the masks should be compliant with and the recommended purpose of use. We shall share this document with you as soon as it has been finalised. We recommend that you carry out your own internal risk assessment to decide if masks are required and if so, which type would be most suitable.” 

Working partnerships

“We are working with UK Hospitality to produce a guidance document for hotels for best practice,” said Stevens. “It is vital hotels work together with their laundries during the re-opening phase.  UK Hospitality is keen to work closely

with the TSA and we have now scheduled weekly calls to inform both parties.”

 Some of the topics from this week’s call included:

  • Informing hotels of the need to pay old debts for laundry (this is the one they were least keen on but got it) 
  • UKH has agreed to send a brief update on the state of its industry including a hotel survey it recently conducted
  • Handling laundry guidelines – TSA and UKH to revise the current guidelines
  • How can we manage/market ‘Corona-free’ linen and towelling?
  • Information around ramp up and forecasted occupancy
  • Support in recognising hospitality laundries as part of the hospitality industry
  • Draft a ‘working together’ communication looking at the issues from both sides

Business pulse survey

"We carried out a Pulse Survey a couple of weeks ago and we sent our second survey out on Monday. The survey enables us to continue to monitor the trends and the state of the industry as it provides us with a real-time picture of the impact Covid-19 is having on our industry. We have had a fantastic response so far covering 162 sites. The results will guide our lobbying efforts further and give us something to build our PR on and therefore we intend to run it every two few weeks so we can get a trend."

CMA/small laundry networking

During the ramp-up Stevens said that laundries may find it difficult to re-open to service small volumes and a small number of customers. During this time, they may seek to network and work together with other laundries to overcome this issue. However, there is an important legal aspect that needs to be considered from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to ensure compliance. Therefore, TSA has taken legal advice and is awaiting a guidance document from a lawyer will be shared with everyone once it has been finalised. This document will provide clear high-level guidance of what is allowed and what is not from a legal viewpoint.