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Have you heard of the linen legends at UHDB?

Linen team's Susan Cresswell

During the pandemic the world celebrated medical staff and the UK championed the NHS, but as we all hailed the Doctors, Nurses and Surgeons, there were unsung heroes working just as tirelessly behind the scenes. 

When you think of everyone who works in a hospital, would you ever think of the linen team? 

We have an incredible linen team here at UHDB and their jobs changed dramatically when coronavirus hit, but their efforts went under the radar, until now. 

When coronavirus hit and demand for PPE sky rocketed, so did the demand for items like scrubs. There was already a national shortage of scrubs, so this was a challenge that the linen team worked hard to resolve. We spoke to Susan Cresswell, who said:  

“The demand got higher and higher out there, so we were really struggling to supply them. We did have help, we had donations from people, plus we had some that had been purchased through the Trust to keep us going. 

“Staff who wouldn’t normally need scrubs but had their ward changed to a covid ward, now needed scrubs. They were also getting through sets quicker as the frequency of changing scrubs increased.” 

Donations from the public really helped the linen team, who said ‘it feels humbling to have a community that pulls together like that’, and that ‘it makes us feel incredibly proud’. However it didn’t come without logistical challenges. Sizing was different to what staff were used to, so ordering a large in donation sizing wasn’t always the same as a large staff had worn previously. All of these bumps in the road to running a smooth service were overcome and the linen team always delivered. 

The change in demand required the team to work longer hours and they felt the pressure as more and more departments requested items. Susan said: “They get their linen daily and we never let them down, so we never get noticed. If somethings not quite right, say if curtains for the day never arrived, then our team would have been noticed, but it didn’t come to that.” 

“Central Laundry in Burton have also been an absolute dream working with us, they’re just down the road and we could phone them and ask for help and they were amazing. Without them we would have struggled.” 

Visiting restrictions also impacted the linen team, as people couldn’t access any clothes from home; more and more patients needed nightgowns. Sue said: “In some cases patients would have to go home in the nightgowns, which would mean we wouldn’t always get them back, which lowers stock.” 

Talking about the experience of working through the pandemic, Sue said: “Seeing the team and the department as it is it now, it's like we would have never guessed that all of the work done during the waves, was done, it is impressive.” 

“We never let anybody down and I just have to say thank you to the team, to those who helped us, to all the porters, they’ve all done a fantastic job.”