Hospital linen electronically tagged to stop losses

Nurse by a hospital bed
Image caption The new scheme will mean 'every item' can be identified

Hospital linen is being electronically tagged, to try to stop up to £400,000 worth going missing every year.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board's laundry service in Cwmbran, Torfaen, has contracts with NHS trusts in Wales and England and processes 12 million pieces of linen each year.

However, it spends £390,000 a year replacing unreturned items.

It has now fitted Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to 300,000 pieces of linen.

The Green Vale Laundry - operated by the health board - said it hoped it would stop hundreds of bed sheets and gowns from getting lost.

The tags will allow scanners to count the pieces being dispatched and received by the laundry, and also to detect linen in waste bags or stored in cupboards.

Alan Dudley, facilities manager with Aneurin Bevan, said it would help "detect inappropriate disposal, or to quickly and accurately assess the stock available".

Explaining possible reasons for the disappearance of linen, he said: "This may be because it has been disposed of by staff who may consider it too soiled to launder, stolen or left with patients when discharged home.

"In an effort to reduce these losses, all bed linen, patient gowns and theatre wear is now being tagged to enable it be traced accurately to and from hospitals."

He added: "This will allow Green Vale to identify at which sites losses are occurring and to work with staff to determine the actual causes and take action to prevent these.

"Where losses continue then health boards will be charged for replacing the linen, providing an incentive to take effective action to reduce the cost to NHS Wales of lost linen.

'Safeguarding public money'

As well as servicing laundry for the Aneurin Bevan health trust, it also has contracts with Cardiff and Vale, Powys and Velindre health boards, as well as small NHS contracts in England.

The scheme is expected to save between £250,000 to £300,000 a year after three years.

The project, starting in April, has received £353,000 from the Welsh government's Invest-to-Save scheme. The fund supports ways of working more efficiently and has invested £77m since 2009.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt said it was an "excellent public service efficiency project," adding: "It saves money for the taxpayer by ensuring we are safeguarding public money for frontline services in the NHS, and assures the continued availability of hospital linen.

"Harnessing technology in this way demonstrates how we in the public service can do things differently and better.

"It's this kind of innovative, collaborative working that I want to see take place more often across Wales."

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