Notts firm aims to help NHS save £1bn a year

A reusable gown being made at Anze

A Nottinghamshire firm which has pioneered the creation of reusable medical materials has welcomed official moves to look seriously at the issue.

Anze, based in Sutton-in-Ashfield, manufactures reusable gowns for doctors, nurses and patients, plus drapes and scrub suits. The firm says the gowns are more versatile, more environmentally friendly, more comfortable to wear – and have the potential to save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds.

Historically, the NHS focus has been on single-use products, which hospitals have to scrap afterwards. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the disposal of one-off personal protective equipment (PPE) has created millions of tons of waste.

Anze is part of a growing national campaign to try to persuade the Government and NHS to move away from a throw-away culture. The Department for Health and Social Care has now produced a strategy document for the Cabinet Office, about the introduction of reusable PPE.

Anze’s managing director Richard Lamb said: “It’s good to see that reusable products and their benefits are now on the Government’s radar. There’s a real opportunity for the NHS as a whole to embrace a tried and tested approach, which is green and has a resilient supply chain.

“As a leader in the development of reusable products, we’re asking the Government to come and talk to us. We want to help.”

Because of the pandemic, Anze says it has seen a major surge in demand for its products, both in the UK and from abroad. At its peak, the company was producing thousands of reusable surgical gowns every week.

The gowns are treated with a special finish which means they can be washed up to 75 times. They can also be steam sterilised for use in operating theatres.

Anze sells many of its gowns to large commercial laundries, which rent them out to the NHS – washing them after each use and then returning them. But around half of all NHS organisations are still only using throwaway items.

The laundries are represented by the Textiles Services Association, which is leading efforts to show the NHS there is another way. It has produced a special brochure to highlight the benefits of reusable gowns.

Its chief executive David Stevens said: “No hotel guest would expect their sheets to be thrown away after one night, so why does this happen with the gowns worn by doctors, nurses and care workers?

“At the moment, the Government is spending a fortune importing single-use gowns. Reusable gowns are tried and tested and made here in Britain. We also have the system to collect, clean and return them. This has to be the future.”

Single use gowns have to be incinerated as clinical waste – not just from hospitals, but also from GP practices, residential and nursing homes.

Lamb added: “Disposing of all the PPE used during the pandemic must be a real headache. But this isn’t just an environmental issue. Even allowing for laundry costs and the fact that some get damaged, reusable gowns are much cheaper overall. The potential saving to the NHS is over a billion pounds a year.”

Anze says that reusable gowns can be 100% recycled at the end of their life and made into new products. Because they can be washed after being worn over clothes, and that they also have the potential to support safe visits by relatives to loved-ones in care homes.