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Clean team who've got our hospitals' linen covered

By Gemma Gardner

Addenbrookes feature profiles, Alison in charge of Linen . Picture: Keith Heppell
Addenbrookes feature profiles, Alison in charge of Linen . Picture: Keith Heppell

More than 5.2million pieces of linen from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust are laundered each year as well as 24,000 uniforms adjusted.

A team of six people each day tackle the mountain of material, with more than 100,000 articles passing through their hands in a normal week.

Alison Peck is linen services supervisor and heads up the group, who ensure that each of the 63 wards at Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie are stocked with clean sheets, bed covers, towels, gowns and nightwear.

“We have a team of just six people a day who work hard to deliver an average of more than 100,000 pieces a week around the hospital to all of our wards and departments,” said Alison, who has worked in the department for nine years.

“This is a mammoth task so we place high value on teamwork.”

Dirty linen is sent to a factory in Leicester to be cleaned. On its return, it is delivered to Addenbrooke’s linen and sewing rooms, where the cleaned items are packed for distribution to each ward and department. Each day, 42 carriages of clean linen arrive at the site in a single delivery.

“My team provide an essential service but many people don’t think of us as we work mainly behind the scenes,” said Alison, who previously worked in the hospital’s laundry before the service was outsourced. “If we don’t pack the trolleys, the clinical staff can’t service a patient.”

The team is responsible for precisely packing 75 trolleys, each made up of 100 sheets, 20 blankets, 15 bed covers, 50 towels, 25 pieces of nightwear and 20 operation gowns.

Alison said: “It’s not like we’ll shove this there and shove this there... in every linen trolley blankets will be in the same place and sheets will be in the same place. Every item is in the same place on every trolley.

“It’s so that up on the ward they know where everything is. If you send something up in a complete mess it comes back to us in a mess and you have to repack it.

“We have them in particular piles of numbers so we know how much is on there. If you didn’t pack it in the way we do, you wouldn’t get it in and it would be a complete mess. If they don’t have clean sheets to change beds they can’t see another patient.”

Alison’s job also includes managing the hospital’s sewing team of two: one full-time and one part-time.

“The uniforms come in and the trousers and dresses come in one length, so we do their measurements and adjust them,” she said.

Each year, the hard-working duo adjust more than 24,000 uniforms. Each full-time member of staff is provided with five sets of uniform.

“There are hundreds of staff a month that we have to measure and do exchanges for. September is probably our busiest time because the students qualify, so last year we had over 100 staff in two weeks to measure plus keeping up with the staff on site with their exchanges,” said Alison.

“We’re very restricted for stock and space so we do basic alterations. If an item is stained or torn, then we’ll exchange those. Then when the new staff come in, they get measured and we prepare uniforms for them.

“We deal with clinical staff with the exception of the operating theatre staff, whose uniform is provided by our factory.

“There’s just a handful of people within the trust that buy their own uniforms in, but most of the clinical staff, from health care assistant to senior nurses, have their uniforms adjusted by us.”

Alison says she lives and breathes the hospital – so much so that when she has finished her shift in the linen room she works a three-hour stint as a porter.

“It’s what keeps me looking youthful,” she joked.

“Why not? I’m here on site and it’s quite unique to have a three-hour shift.”

The team in the linen room recently won the trust’s ‘Make A Difference’ award.

“It was lovely to be recognised,” added Alison.


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