As the cost of living crisis deepens, a microbiology expert from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is urging healthcare works to claim back the cost of washing uniforms at home.
Professor Katie Laird has repeatedly argued that uniforms worn by healthcare workers should be washed in-house by employers or industrially to reduce the spread of infection.
This is because her research has shown that coronaviruses like the strain that causes Covid-19 can survive for up to three days on certain fabrics and transfer to other surfaces, also bacteria are able to survive domestic washing
But despite this, many healthcare workers take their uniforms home to wash them, not only increasing the chance of infection spreading but costing them hundreds of pounds in laundering costs.
Nurses can claim up to £100 a year back in tax for their uniform laundering costs for the last four years – something many nurses said they did not know about.
To see if you can claim, visit www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees
Professor Laird said: “If every healthcare worker who is eligible to claim does so, it may highlight to the government just how much it is costing and why it is time for change.
“You don’t need a receipt to confirm you had it cleaned and you can make a retrospective claim from HMRC for the last four years, it’s really simple and all you need is your national insurance number and P60.”
The call out from Professor Laird follows a review into the cost of washing uniforms at home – which showed it costs around six times more to wash uniforms at home than it would for them to be industrially laundered.
“For a number of years now I have been examining how bacteria surves on textiles used in healthcare and how best to launder these fabrics to minimise the risk of contamination or spread. What I have found, time and time again, is that industrial laundering is still the safest, most cost-effective method,” said Professor Laird.
As head of the Infectious Disease research group at DMU, Professor Laird has conducted a number of studies in this area which show that washing uniforms at home in a domestic washing machine is often not enough to completely remove bacteria, nor eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.
She and fellow DMU researcher Dr Lucy Owen surveyed more than 1,200 nurses, healthcare workers and nursing students across England, to learn about their behaviours and attitudes towards laundering of their uniforms during the Covid-19 pandemic.
They found that one-fifth of healthcare workers deviated from UK healthcare uniform wash guidelines and that more than two-thirds would prefer their employer to wash their uniforms. The study also showed that 42% of those surveyed had not claimed their taxes back on their uniforms, while 27% of nurses were not even aware it was an option.
“We know from our research that guidelines are not being followed correctly,” continued Professor Laird. “Coupled with the fact that it actually costs more for uniforms to be laundered at home than it does for them to be industrially laundered, it makes no sense for healthcare workers to be washing these items.”
More information on this can be found from Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis.
Posted on Tuesday 4th October 2022