Marcus Stacey-Bradbury of Hanwell Solutions Ltd examines the challenges of meeting ever-changing legislation and how remote environmental monitoring solutions can be used across multiple market sectors to ensure the highest standards are upheld.

Keeping tabs on storage conditions is essential for facilities managers across a spectrum of industry sectors to meet government legislation. This is particularly challenging in the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors where regulatory standards are strictly enforced.

Agencies such as Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Care Quality Commission (CQC), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), British Retail Consortium (BRC), Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) seek to ensure safety regulations are adhered to.

Any of these authorities will turn up to conduct inspections, sometimes more than one, checking that the rules are being observed and the highest standards are in place, especially the environmental conditions for items such as medical supplies, drugs and food.

Whether storing supplies of blood, cough mixture or sports supplements, ensuring temperatures are being maintained at the correct level are vital for FMs, as the earlier they pick up on a problem the quicker it can be rectified. Slack monitoring procedures could lead to a crisis if a rise in temperatures within the facility or the equipment causes damage to products, resulting in major drugs trials being delayed or hospitals cancelling and postponing operations.

Human Tissue Authority (HTA) classes a faulty fridge as a major equipment failure, so quick intervention thanks to accurate, real-time monitoring of temperatures can save the day and maintain the supply of vital products. That’s where wireless environmental monitoring comes into its own.

A variation in the temperature of fridges or cold store solutions, however small and unnoticed, could be catastrophic for a hospital’s supply of blood, urine and human tissue, while it goes without saying that the impact on morgues, cryogenics and embryos in IVF clinics could be disastrous.

It’s common knowledge that the NHS is cash-strapped – it has a £960m deficit – and quality-assured wireless monitoring systems don’t come cheap. However, most supplies needing cold storage are expensive and a malfunctioning fridge storing almost any product costs thousands of pounds to replace, not to mention the severe damage to reputation.


A hospital in the north of England discovered this to their cost a few years ago. Serious failings in their storage procedures led to the loss of the blood bank on a Friday evening, which was not acted upon until the Saturday morning. As a result, the hospital had to shut down A&E and maternity services as well as postpone operations. They were then hauled over the coals by from the NHS, HTA, MHRA and CQC.

“Slack monitoring procedures could lead to a crisis if a

rise in facility temperatures or the equipment causes damage to products.”

Sometimes simple measures can be taken to avoid devastating consequences, like just shifting equipment from one location to another. This is what we successfully advised another hospital to do after a pathology lab allocated a sun-drenched room on the first floor for holding eighty fridges and freezers – then realised the difficulty of maintaining the equipment’s temperature. The solution was for facilities to move the equipment down to the basement where the ambient temperature is about eight degrees lower.

In the old days the NHS would have employed someone who would routinely take temperature readings from fridges by opening the door. The temperature might have been creeping up but still within the regulations so nothing was done, whereas now a hospital can take immediate action if the real-time data recording an upward trend is potentially a cause for concern.

Having well-documented records and data on how storage equipment is performing over a continuous period of time is a significant advantage that can save time, costs and of course reputation.

Frequent checking that medical products and foods are stored at the regulatory temperatures is a fact of life for facilities managers – but automatic monitoring of sensitive equipment can save time and provide peace of mind by taking the heat out of inspections.

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