UK: Reusable protective gowns now available for NHS workers

NHS healthcare workers, medics and care home workers will now have access to reusable protective gowns, under a new partnership between the government and the UK laundry industry.

The idea has been pushed by the Textile Service Association (TSA), the trade body representing the UK’s commercial laundries, for over two months. Instead of using disposable gowns, healthcare workers, medics and care workers will switch to reusable ones – and UK laundries will clean them hygienically, ready for reuse.

Several NHS trusts are already using reusable PPE gowns successfully and while the cost per gown is around ten times that of a disposable version, the reusable one can be laundered and reused between 75 and 100 times, saving the NHS up to an estimated £500m a year. 

As many as half a million single use gowns are used every day during the COVID-19 crisis – and once used they are thrown away, creating millions of tonnes of clinical waste, which must be incinerated.

The TSA has put together comprehensive guidelines and a certification process, to enable other laundries that already process NHS linen to cope with the anticipated increased volumes.

“The key for the laundry industry is to mobilise now to ensure we have the capacity and processes in place to service this enormous increase in demand.

“Without laundries processing to the correct standard there’s no point in having reusable gowns,” noted David Stevens, CEO of the TSA

The standard used within the NHS is ‘HTM01-04’, which guarantees the disinfection of the gown. As well as complying with this, laundries must be able to manage collecting, cleaning and returning two to three million gowns weekly to thousands of different locations. 

“We have plenty of capacity and expertise to provide the service required, and hope to encourage an additional 30 to 50 laundry sites to go through the certification process, to ensure we’re ready to support the project when the gowns start to arrive,” Stevens noted.

“The vision is to have the reusable gowns service available throughout the healthcare market so that hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and nursing homes all have access.”