The True Cost of the NHS's Laundry Losses

Every year, the NHS faces a significant and often overlooked issue: the loss of scrubs, which creates both financial strain and environmental impact. In this blog, we delve into the true cost of this "stale stock" problem, analysing data to reveal the staggering amounts spent on replacing lost scrubs and the corresponding carbon footprint. We also explore innovative solutions, such as RFID technology, that can help the NHS reduce waste, improve transparency, and achieve substantial cost savings. Join us as we uncover the hidden costs of laundry losses and discuss potential strategies for a cleaner, more efficient healthcare system.

Dan Beal

Business & Insights


Every year, a significant number of scrubs vanish across the NHS, creating a financial and environmental black hole. And in the current economic climate, when every penny counts, it’s not something to be ignored. In this blog, we delve into the surprising cost of this "stale stock" issue and explore how innovative solutions can help the NHS get a clean bill of health.

Diving into the data

Our team analysed NHS Hospital & Community Health Service (HCHS) workforce statistics to evaluate the overall costs of laundry wastage, specifically looking at the headcount figure of professionally qualified clinical staff who are often required to wear scrubs.

Our estimates found that the average number of staff wearing scrubs in a hospital or NHS trust is approximately 3,073. By extrapolating this data to a national level, we found the total number of English NHS staff wearing scrubs stands at approximately 772,636.

The true cost of laundry loss

A crucial factor in understanding the financial impact of untraceable scrubs is the cost associated with their replacement. A set of Interweave NHS Essential medical scrubs, for example, comes with a price tag of £12.60. At that price, we estimated the average spend on scrubs per NHS trust to be £38,719.80, resulting in a total spend of £9,735,213.60 across all English NHS trusts. 

This spending estimate assumes that a set of scrubs is available for each staff member's use per shift. However, this ideal scenario is different from the current situation in the NHS. Healthcare facilities are grappling with difficulties in tracing scrubs, leading to the phenomenon known as "stale stock".

Stale stock refers to scrubs that are lost or misplaced, resulting in heightened financial strains on NHS trusts. The absence of transparency within the supply chain contributes to these losses, with as many as five complete sets of scrubs and a total of ten items (comprising five tops and five bottoms) being misplaced or lost. 

As a result, our calculations showed that the actual average spend on scrubs per NHS trust is likely to be five times the original figure cited, therefore closer to £193,599. 

To put this in perspective, this is enough money to cover the entire annual salary of five doctors in foundation training (£32,398 to £37,303 according to the NHS). 

The total spend across England escalates to an astonishing £48,676,068 which is approximately more than it would cost to build six new GP surgeries, if we take Ipswich Borough Council as an example. 

When accounting for the manufacturing, transportation, washing processes and ultimately losses, the total estimated carbon emissions from the NHS wastage is believed to be around 7,600 tonnes according to the TSA (Textile Services Association). Our experts estimate the carbon per scrub based on the TSA's assertion to be approximately 3.28 kg.

Innovating for solutions

The underlying factors contributing to the absence and displacement of scrubs are multifaceted and have become a vicious cycle over time. Here at Oxwash, we are ultimately committed to a collaborative, radically transparent, and data-based approach that helps us understand all the factors at play. 

The integration of our RFID technology for effective scrub tracking plays a pivotal role in streamlining inventory management, reducing waste, and ensuring optimal utilisation of resources. RFID technology can enhance traceability, prevent valuable resources from being thrown into landfills and, ultimately, generate substantial cost savings, which all contribute to the overall success of sustainability initiatives within healthcare facilities. 

Looking for stock transparency?

If you have any questions about combatting laundry losses, please contact us; our team will be happy to help.
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