Hundreds of jobs are at risk as the NHS plans to axe four of its eight laundries in Scotland.
NHS boards have privately warned they expect the planned cuts – set to go before bosses next month – will trigger industrial action.
Scottish Labour’s shadow health secretary Monica Lennon urged ministers to “come clean over this move and say how many staff are facing redundancies”. Laundries at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Raigmore Hospital in Inverness are among the eight under review.
The other six are at Borders General Hospital in Melrose, Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, St John’s Hospital in Livingston, Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, the West of Scotland Laundry in Wishaw and Hillington Laundry in Glasgow.
Proposals to cut the number of laundries have been discussed behind the scenes for several years, eventually leading to a strategy to move from eight to four.
Another option being considered is to keep four laundries plus the Borders Laundry, because it also generates commercial income.
Detailed plans have now been drawn up and NHS chiefs have claimed they could save as much as £2.7 million a year, which is around 12 per cent of laundry operating costs.
The move is part of a “shared services” drive that aims to save money and streamline services.
The NHS would not say how many staff work in the laundries, only that “this will be collated and reviewed as part of the process informing the business case”.
However, it is understood that in Aberdeen alone around 45 people are employed in linen services, which includes laundry, the sewing room and workers who distribute linen. It is believed Kirkcaldy has similar staff numbers.
A recently published minute from an August meeting of NHS Highland’s staff governance committee shows its facilities lead, Alistair Wilson, said a business case to move to four laundries would go to chief executives in November.
North East MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “Too often we’ve seen public services centralised for the sake of apparent savings, which end up as a false economy because you end up with an awful lot of time and effort spent moving things from place to place.”