Gwent hospital linen to be electronically tagged
10:10am Thursday 14th March 2013 in News
EVERY piece of hospital linen used in Gwent will be fitted with an electronic identification tag in an effort to slash a £300,000- a-year bill for lost items.
And the new tagging scheme – backed with £354,000 from the Welsh Government – will also play a key role in tackling a problem with shortages of sheets, pillows, pillowcases, towels and other items that has dogged wards at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall hospitals.
The latter problem became serious enough during last spring for Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council, the independent patients’ watchdog, to declare that it was causing “serious patient dignity issues”.
And despite improvements the CHC still receives reports of linen shortages and recently concluded that the supply to some wards remains patchy.
Cutting the £300,000 annual bill for lost linen would represent a significant saving, especially with NHS budgets in Wales being squeezed ever tighter.
The Welsh Government money is coming in the form of an Invest To Save scheme, which means the health board must pay it back from savings made with the new tagging system.
Linen will be fitted with Radio Frequency Identification tags, so every piece of linen collected and dispatched through the laundry system can be counted.
As well as Gwent hospitals, the Greenvale Laundry, on the former Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital site, handles linen from hospitals in the Cardiff and Vale Health Board area and from several NHS trusts in England.
The tagging system will allow it to identify sites from which linen is lost, and work with customers to reduce these losses.
This will be the first largescale implementation of a linen/laundry tagging system in the UK, in either the public or the private sector, though it is well established in Europe.
The cash injection was welcomed by CHC chief officer Cathy O’Sullivan, but she warned that more must be done to solve a problem that impacts directly on patients.
“Yes, we have seen some improvement, yes, it is a work in progress,” she said.
“But we still have a level of frustration that 18 months after first identifying this as a problem, we are still getting reports of shortages.”
The CHC last month urged patients and relatives to highlight any shortages they experience of sheets, pillows and other items.