Specialist care centre’s laundry workers are caring ‘soap stars’

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star awards laundry team 2A team of four laundry workers have been described as ‘unsung heroes’ by managers at a neurological care centre in Peterborough.

The women work in the laundry at the Eagle Wood Neurological Care Centre in Bretton, and have been honoured with special awards by their bosses.

The team wash, dry and iron thousands of sheets, pillow cases, towels and clothes every week at the centre, which is home to up to 105 residents with a range of acquired and progressive neurological conditions, including motor neurone disease, young onset dementia and stroke, as well as some with serious spinal injuries.

Johann van Zyl, chief executive officer at PJ Care, which owns and manages Eagle Wood, said the four women were remarkable workers.

“They really are the unsung heroes at Eagle Wood,” he said. “In the two years we’ve been open they have worked tirelessly as a team – and the most incredible thing is that despite looking after thousands of pieces of laundry every month, they have not received a single complaint. That’s almost unheard of.”

The four are Betty Kelly, Claire Biddles, Susan Beaumont, and Sangita Bista.

They work in teams of two, putting in 12-hour shifts at the purpose-build laundry, which is part of the state-of-the-art Eagle Wood facility.

Betty is originally from Hong Kong, and comes from a family of tailors and seamstresses. She said: “I was here when the laundry first opened in the summer of 2012 and helped set it all up.

“The equipment here is fantastic, and we have gradually added extra washing machines and driers as more residents have moved in.

“It is very hard work. We are on our feet for several hours every day, and it’s vital that we get our work done well and on time.

“If we don’t have the sheets cleaned and ironed, the nurses can’t make the beds –simple as that.”

The laundry has three separate units – one for cleaning, one for drying and ironing, and a third room where the cleaned and ironed clothes and sheets are stored for collection.

Claire gave birth to twins in June and is currently on maternity leave. She said working well as a team was really important for the four women.

“Good communication is vital,” said Claire, who is currently busy looking after tiny month-old twin boys Henley and Finley. “Even though we work in teams of two, we have to let the others know what’s going on, and what needs to be done.

“We all get on really well, which is very important too.”

Sue, a mum of six, and a grandmother to another six, said: “Having a good pair of comfy shoes is important, because we are on our feet all day, sometimes from 7.30 in the morning to 7.30 at night! We need to be pretty fit.”

Sangita came to Britain from Nepal, and previously worked in a hotel.

“The main difference here,” she said, “is that as well as all the bedding we also wash and iron the clothes of the residents.

“We have to learn how residents like them ironed, and how they like them folded. It’s important we do things just how the residents would have their laundry done if they were at home.”

The four women were presented with a Star Award at PJ Care’s annual prize-giving ceremony at the Hellidon Lakes Hotel and Country Club near Daventry.

They were given their trophy by Pete Winkelman, chairman of MK Dons football club, and by Davina Ludlow, who runs online care home guide carehome.co.uk.

Johann van Zyl added: “It’s important, of course, for nurses and carers to show compassion and commitment – but this laundry team at Eagle Wood prove that this type of care makes a real difference no matter which department you work in.

“We’re so proud of the laundry team, and they really deserve this award.”

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