UK’s Textile Services Association (TSA) has called on the National Health Service (NHS) to change the guidance on maintaining workwear following a research that says that households face risk of cross-contamination from pathogens that health workers may bring home from work.
Healthcare workers in the UK taking their uniforms home to wash cannot be confident, at the end of the wash, that their uniform has been fully disinfected.
- l This leaves their households under risk of cross-contamination from pathogens that they may bring home from work, new research has found.
- l The study, Variable decontamination efficacy of domestic washing machines: potential risks for home laundering of healthcare uniforms, was carried out by De Montfort University (DMU), supported by the Textile Services Association (TSA).
- l The findings were presented at the Infection Prevention Society (IPS) Conference in October 2022.
- l Now DMU and TSA are calling on the National Health Service (NHS) to change the guidance on maintaining workwear at home.
THE BACKDROP: Over 700,000 nurses in the UK wash their uniforms at home. The figure is even higher when other healthcare workers are taken into account.
The NHS encourages nurses to maintain and care for healthcare workwear at home, even where outsourcing to a commercial laundry is available.
The new research, however, suggests that this practice is hazardous, proving that some domestic machines are not up to the task of decontaminating clothes.
THE STUDY: The aim of the research was to assess the ability of home washing machines to meet the minimum disinfection standards set by the NHS in HTM 01-04 (Decontamination of linen for health and social care, updated 31 August 2021).
l Six different domestic models were used, of different ages and manufacturers, to ensure the ‘real world’ authenticity of the testing.
l DMU and TSA also developed a methodology that is able to validate the ability of a washing process to disinfect textile products – especially those used in healthcare, food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and other sectors where there is a need for high-care textile maintenance.
THE RESULTS: The results confirmed the inadequacy of domestic washing machines to consistently achieve the essential requirements of heat, chemistry and mechanical action required for decontamination.
l NHS Guidelines recommend that healthcare workers launder their uniforms at 60C. But, in the tests, none of the machines actually got up to 60C, either on standard or rapid wash programmes.
l This showed that healthcare workers taking their uniforms home to wash cannot be confident, at the end of the wash, that their uniform has been fully disinfected.
WHAT THEY SAID:
The TSA has always argued that nurses’ uniforms should be washed professionally. PHE (Public Health England) and other departments have said there was not enough evidence to prove the inadequacy of domestic washing machines. Well, there is now. And it’s based on world-class research from some of the most respected names in the field of infectious diseases.
— David Stevens
Chief Executive Officer
Textile Services Association