UK trust saves millions with GS1 barcoding

A Scan4Safety initiative using GS1 barcoding to track patient activity has saved millions at an NHS trust in England.

Keith Jones is director of clinical surgery at Royal Derby NHS Trust in England which started a GS1 barcoding initiative at the end of 2013. He visited New Zealand in June to talk about implementing the technology and the benefits his organisation has seen. He says the trust identified £2.7 million in savings related to the scanning initiative in the 2017 - 2018 year. “It’s enabled us to let staff do the jobs they’re employed to do, rather than filling out paper forms for hours,”.

Each patient at the hospital has an ID wrist band with a GS1 barcode. Everything done to them while in hospital is tracked via scanning this barcode, along with the barcodes of staff, theatres and devices so they can be linked back to the patient. “We can capture the pathway the patient is on and what has occurred to them on the pathway to give a comprehensive picture of exactly how that patient has been managed, which individuals have been involved in the patient’s care and what implants have been used,” explains Jones. “This has allowed us to look at performance data in places like operating theatres, and in certain cases we’ve been able to put more staff in to make things more efficient.”

The scanning of all implantable devices used in patients is particularly helpful if there is a product recall, which previously would take days of someone looking through paper notes and can now be done at the touch of a button. As stock usage is tracked electronically, replacement stock can be automatically ordered.

The trust has also introduced an electronic payment system for suppliers and reduced its stock holdings down to three weeks’ supply. “You need suppliers to be compliant with the whole process and there has been really good compliance with people prepared to use GS1 barcodes on the products,” Jones says. He adds that New Zealand audiences have been very interested in the technology and its application at UK hospitals.

He advised anyone embarking on a similar project to ensure they have good clinical engagement from the start. “This is not something that hospital managers alone can achieve, so clinical engagement is critical,”. "Start small and start slowly in a compliant area. Allow the practice to embed and listen to the users and learn from their feedback.”

Jones says it is important to use a global standard for barcoding, because if different providers record things in different ways, it becomes impossible to benchmark activity across the country.

Royal Derby is one of six demonstrator sites for the UK Department of Health’s Scan4Safety initiative, which is using GS1 global standards to deliver enhanced patient safety outcomes, increase overall performance efficiency and reduce costs. The initiative has identified ongoing operational efficiencies of £2.4 million per NHS trust annually, which is £365 million across the entire NHS.