Scan4Safety: What’s next for acute trusts?

Glen Hodgson, head of healthcare at GS1 UK, looks at the progress made in the Scan4Safety project so far and what’s coming next for acute trusts in England. 

The beginning of this year saw the one year anniversary of the Scan4Safety project – the implementation of GS1 standards to identify every person, product and place in acute trusts across England. 

The project recently gained publicity, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt showing his support over Christmas: “Scan4Safety is a world-first in healthcare – and a vital part of this government’s drive to make the NHS the safest and most transparent healthcare system in the world.” 

The first six trusts to lead the way on Scan4Safety – Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS FT, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS FT, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and Salisbury NHS FT – joined hundreds of leading figures in healthcare at the two-day ‘Scan4Safety Leadership Conference’ held at the end of January to talk about the project’s latest progress and successes. 

Lord Carter of Coles, one of the presenters at the event, fully summarised the feeling of the conference in one single quote: “GS1 barcoding is the second most important change in the NHS at the moment, after staff productivity.” 

Commitment to the project is being proven every day, and not just by words but also by action. The Department of Health (DH) has also now announced that it wants four annual waves for the remaining 148 trusts. Their business case has already proved that the savings achieved can exceed £1bn; it’s just a matter of it happening now, so the whole of healthcare economy can reap the benefits. 

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Progress already made 

The DH wants this project to be rolled out across all acute trusts in England because the six Scan4Safety demonstrator sites have already proven that scanning works. And just one year in, the trusts are already making many savings. For example, Derby, the furthest along in its implementation journey, predicts that it will save £1.18m in 2016-17. And Leeds has already saved £812,000 just through reducing stock. 

Their progress though isn’t just about saving money, they’re also making their hospitals safer for patients. All patients at Derby are now allocated a GS1-compliant wristband so in the case of a product recall, for example, they know exactly what products were used on who, and therefore who needs to be notified. 

Patients are also safer because clinical time is freed up to care. David Berridge, deputy chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Through the use of GS1-compliant barcodes stock tracking is now more accurate, and we have seen a significant reduction in clinical time spent locating products and, therefore, more time has been released to care for patients.” 

The Scan4Safety project is saving the demonstrator sites time, money and it’s making patients safer, but it’s also providing the six trusts with the knowledge they need to make these savings sustainable over time. According to Rob Drag, Scan4Safety programme manager at Salisbury NHS FT, the data it’s giving them is invaluable: “By scanning all consumables, implants, and staff to a patient, detailed costs of a procedure are now available at the touch of a button. This helps provide clinical staff with more accurate and timely data, helping them to make better informed decisions.” 

This data appeals to clinicians, procurement and finance directors because it gives them the details they need, from a trusted source, to help everyone be more effective. 

Of course, they all had challenges to deal with – but these are overcome with collaboration and vision. For example, integrating the various clinical and financial systems, introducing and implementing so much change to people’s existing ways of working, and securing both staff and patient buy-in are just some of the issues that proved challenging for all the sites. 

We’re only one year into the project, but GS1 standards are already proving to have a great impact at every stage of the patient pathway in those trusts that are scanning, or are on their way to scanning, every person, product and place. The next phase of the project, where we’ll see more and more trusts come on board, is where we’ll see this transformational change at a national level. 




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