At the very heart of the fight to overcome Covid-19 and its shattering impact is a group of unsung hero businesses, whose services are playing a vital role in the ongoing battle with the virus.
One such example is Optimum Finance client Anze. Based in Nottinghamshire, the business manufactures reusable gowns for doctors, nurses and patients, plus drapes and scrub suits – all essential items at a time where the NHS is at its limit due to the number of hospitalisations across the country.
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.
The gowns, which are treated with a special finish, can be washed up to 75 times. They can also be steam sterilised for use in operating theatres. This reusability factor is of paramount importance in reducing the impact of single-use PPE disposal; not just from an environmental perspective, but financially too.
Even when allowing for laundry costs and the fact that some get damaged in use, reusable gowns are massively cheaper overall. In fact, the potential saving to the NHS is over a billion pounds a year.
Led by managing director Richard Lamb, Anze has unsurprisingly seen a major surge in demand for its products, both in the UK and from abroad.
When the virus began to take a hold in the UK in March 2020, Anze was the only business manufacturing these products in the country. Despite his 20 years’ experience producing these items, Richard had never experienced the level of enquiries that began to flood in - the phone was ringing off the hook.
Anze faced the challenge of scaling up its business with scant resources – and as a knock-on, its supply chain needed to drastically ramp up too. Richard and his team were working six days a week from 6am to fulfil the orders that were so desperately needed, but still had to turn customers away due to Anze’s supply chain struggling to work to the scale needed, despite best efforts.
“It truly was battle stations”, says Richard. “We were running around trying to build a timeline of what was available now, and what would be available into the future.
“Whatever we produced had to be divided up between customers so that they each had something to use each week. It was a highly stressful time for the team, taking tense and at times tearful phone calls from clients who desperately needed our products.”
Richard set up his facility with Optimum Finance at a time where he needed more than ever to have any stress around cash flow removed, which somewhat eased the many daily challenges the team were facing.
By July, Anze had found its stride with the increased demand and was running efficiently, with enhanced IT capabilities and a clear structure. Local sub-contractors were enlisted to help ease the pressure by making gowns to a strict brief; fashion, bridal and sportswear SMEs which had run out of business due to the pandemic. Anze had more than doubled in size, but the bedlam was gone.
Richard is now urging the Government and NHS to speed up the wider adoption of reusable clinical gowns, which could save hundreds of millions of pounds. The Textiles Services Association (TSA), which represents the laundries that Anze supplies to, is leading the charge to show the NHS there is another way.
The amount of wastage caused by the single-use process is quite staggering. According to the TSA, gowns, based on a weight of 250g per piece, will generate over 115 tonnes of textiles per day in our healthcare system altogether.
Total clinical gown waste (including top up) will produce 45 million tonnes per year. On top of this, the majority of PPE is currently being airfreighted into the UK, only to be thrown away after one use.
“In my opinion, there is one clear solution to the impact currently caused by single-use gowns – and that is to switch to reusable. There are 10s of 1000s of containers with millions of tonnes of waste, sitting with no easy route to disposal due to the sheer quantity.
“We are ready to support the NHS in making this essential switch which would save a huge amount of funds to be redistributed to other areas of the service.”
To find out more about Anze, visit its website: https://anze.co.uk/