The annual Society of Hospital Linen Services and Laundry Managers (SHLSLM) Forum took place on 28 September in Stratford-upon-Avon, where attendees witnessed a variety of presentations and debated the workings of NHS laundry management from take up of RFID and automatic uniform dispensers, smart productivity solutions through to procurement protocols.

The SHLSLM annual professional development forum is a key event for NHS and commercial laundry and linen services professionals as well as a wide range of allied traders.

Martin Hartwigsen, sales and marketing manager at Deister Electronic, Germany based company for RFID solutions, presented on the company’s textile solution program, textag. “Data/analytics is the key to success in the digital age,” he said and commenced to ask a series of do-you-know? questions including:

            • How much time is wasted at garment and linen dispensing points?

            • The life cycle of each product?

            • What textiles are the slow/fast movers?

            • Is workflow and textile circulation good?

            • Are wearers exceeding hygiene limits for time of use?”

Coming back to the first question Hartwigsen explained: “If for example a conveyor dispenser needs 35 seconds and a cabinet just 4 seconds you can work out that there are time savings of 31 seconds or close to 2 hours per year and user. These are huge savings by 500 nurses.” 

He believes Trusts could eliminate or at least vastly reduce the need for conversations such as those by using the textag system with decentralised dispensing cabinets where access and inventory time are less than 5 seconds. The system also allows for improved workflow and puts textiles wherever needed thereby eliminate walking time.and offers/7 availability with no maintenance. 

“You can get 200 articles in one cabinet serving up to 75 nurses and the system prevents ‘bunkering’ (hoarding in lockers). And they can collect and deposit at the same time, no downtime. At the same time, it offers real time inventory and loss prevention.

“Every single textile is marked with a washable RFID transponder (which will outlast the life of the textile. Each article at every point is tracked in real time at the hospital or at the laundry or linen rental business,” he says.

Room based solutions are also available for bigger hospitals, he expklained. The system is used in hospitals in Europe and Scandinavia and Hartwigsen cited the example of a hospital in Oslo, Norway where inpatient treatment takes place across three hospitals with a total of 485 beds. Every day, around 700 employees have to be provided with fresh work clothes. The system was installed successfully in 2021.

But who is going to pay for this? The NHS or the linen rental business? And how will it work?

One delegate agreed that although in a perfect world this or similar RFID-based system is the way forward, but he pointed out that things aren’t quite as cut and dried here in the UK as they are in Norway. There, the government wants to know where its property is as the linen is funded by the taxpayer. In the UK different Trusts with different guidelines and differing budgets (all under pressure) means the lost linen problem will continue until such time as the NHS gets its act together and becomes more cohesive.

Jon Hampton of Salisbury Linen Services said: “Martin delivered an interesting paper on the features and benefits of RFID technology used within the healthcare sector.

“On the continent RFID technology within hospitals has been embraced as a core requirement for all services. Inventory management is vastly improved giving greater visibility of stock levels and security of assets.

“Of particular interest was the way in which Martin explained the added value RFID brings to linen services. Garment wearers are issued sets based on individual requirements and must return items in order to have access to replacements. This ensures that items are processed in accordance with healthcare standards and reduces the risk of garment misuse and abuse.

“It is widely accepted that some stock attrition will take place with suppliers being supported with charging mechanisms for stock loss and loss of revenue for items that are not returned through the correct process.

“This ensures that the correct stock levels are available for users and linen is returned in the same volumes as delivered for a consistent and sustainable linen service. Within the UK healthcare sector linen providers can all see the benefits associated with RFID technology.

“Many linen providers have already trlaled RFID systems. However there has been a reluctance within the healthcare sector to adopt the same practices. “Let’s hope that in the near future the healthcare sector will see a shift to RFID within linen service provision and reap the same benefits as presented.”


 Hospital Lüneburg, Germany

Leverkusen case study  Hospital Bodo, Norway

• You can read the full forum report in the October UK issue of LCN where we also feature a Material Solutions masterclass on low temperature washing for healthcare.if you would like to receive a copy of the issue, please contact