QIPP, Efficiency & Savings


Leading the way in barcoding the healthcare system

Source: NHE May/Jun 17

Glen Hodgson, head of healthcare at GS1 UK, explores how GS1 standards are delivering real value in the NHS in England.

At the beginning of this year, we celebrated the first anniversary of the launch of Scan4Safety – the name chosen for the GS1 implementation programme being followed by the six demonstrator trusts – and their successes so far. One year in, the trusts are already saving time and money. Consumption in theatres at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS FT has gone down, returning them millions of pounds in savings. That’s just in one department; these savings will increase as GS1 standards are implemented across all departments in the next phases of the programme. 

In an update that coincided with the anniversary, the Department of Health announced it is progressing approval of a business case for funding for all remaining 148 acute trusts over the next four years. It predicts this will save them more than £1bn over seven years. 

But perhaps what’s even more exciting is the work that trusts are undertaking over and above the requirements of the Scan4Safety programme. 

At Derby, their work started in theatres where they now scan every product, patient, member of staff, surgical instrument and medical equipment during a procedure. This gives them a really clear picture of who did what to who during a procedure, and where and when it happened – vital for patient safety, especially in the case of product recall. It’s connected to their inventory management system with their product catalogue and has reduced their overall non-stock spend by 6%, rising to 11% in some areas. They estimate this will save them £1.2m this year. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Derby want to extend this beyond their theatres. Their next target is to bring the level of detail they get in theatre into wards. Recognising that the requirements would be different, they capture all the data they need on iPads, using their existing system. They record location, the staff present and those carrying out the task, the procedure, the ward and the devices being used. This means they get that same certainty of truth they have in theatre – patients are safer because, at the push of a button, they know the details of all the care that patient has received. 

And the plan is that they won’t stop there: GS1 standards will be embedded in everything they do so that the whole patient pathway can be documented in this way. 

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Implementation outside demonstrator trusts 

It doesn’t stop with Derby’s future vision; some of the most impressive stories of GS1 standards implementation are happening outside of the six Scan4Safety demonstrator trusts. Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust came at this from a difficult and different angle. Their GS1 implementation journey started with a CQC inspection in 2013 that put them in special measures, and one of the requirements was to improve their medical records management. They saw this as an opportunity to make some quick and effective improvements and their use of a solution using RFID and barcode readers, supported by GS1 standards, did just that.

All medical records and locations are now barcoded, meaning that they are available when and where they are needed. The new system is saving them time – they can now file 85 records per hour, versus 35 per hour pre-implementation – and it is saving them money. They predicted a saving of £2.4m over three years, and 84% of this was realised in the first year of the project. It’s really transformed the way they are working. 

It is an exciting time. The groundwork being done in the Scan4Safety trusts is leading to more uses of the standards, both inside and outside of the programme. And the future vision at Derby, a plan for traceability across the whole patient pathway, demonstrates the value that GS1 standards will have for all acute trusts in England.


W: www.gs1uk.org/healthcare


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