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New report proves point-of-care scanning in the NHS improves patient safety, releases back clinical time to care and saves the NHS millions of pounds

Six NHS hospital trusts that have implemented point-of-care scanning can now rapidly trace any item used on a patient and have greatly improved clinical and business processes, helping save thousands of lives and millions of pounds

London, 15 July 2020 - Six NHS hospital trusts which implemented regular point-of-care scanning have ensured complete traceability of healthcare items while securing millions of pounds of savings and releasing thousands of hours of clinical time, a new report reveals.

A scan of the benefits: the Scan4Safety evidence report details the results at hospital trusts that took part in a national two-year programme, known as Scan4Safety, to investigate the benefits of point-of-care barcode scanning in the NHS.

It shows that the six Scan4Safety demonstrator sites increased efficiency while significantly bolstering patient safety – including by being able to accurately track and share details of which patients have been given which treatments and implants, an ability deemed of crucial importance by the recent Independent Medicines and Medical Device Safety Review[1] led by Baroness Julia Cumberlege.

Among the results across all six trusts during the two years of the Scan4Safety demonstrator programme:

  • 140,000 hours of clinical time released back to care for patients
  • Recurrent inventory savings worth nearly £5m
  • Non-recurrent inventory reductions amounting to £9m

Among the key results at individual organisations are:

  • By introducing scanning in pharmacy, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust reduced prevented error rates by 76 per cent including elimination of all errors caused by wrong patient, wrong drug, wrong dose and wrong form
  • By December 2018, University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust had realised cumulative benefits of £3,194,346 thanks to Scan4Safety
  • At Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the average time taken to recall a product has fallen from 8.33 days to less than 35 minutes following Scan4Safety
  • At North Tees and Hartlepool Hospital NHS Trust scanning a nasogastric tube before inserting in a patient, displays a patient safety alert detailing the potential risks. Once the tube has been placed, the clinician is also required to confirm a pH test has been conducted – this is a key indicator of whether the tube is in the right place and thus helps eliminate the risk of a Never Event[2]

As the Cumberlege review of medicines and medical devices has recently shown, it has traditionally been difficult to know which product has been used on which patient at which time.

At Scan4Safety trusts, however, there is full visibility of what care has been given to which patient, when and where. Patients have a barcode on their wristband which is scanned before a procedure. All equipment then used for the procedure – including implantable medical devices – is scanned before use and recorded against that patient.

The location in which a procedure takes place also has a barcode which is scanned and, at some trusts, staff have barcodes on their badges. This makes it possible to know which members of the team were involved in which procedures.

Since items are scanned the minute they go into stock, hospitals with Scan4Safety also have a much clearer picture of what equipment they have available where. This means more informed inventory management, reduced risk of items going out of date, and clinical staff freed from time consuming stock management duties.

Commented Lord David Prior, chair of NHS England: “Barcodes are commonplace in most industries and been around for a long time. It is time they became commonplace in the NHS. They offer traceability, efficiency savings and greater patient safety. We live in a world in which digital technology has already fundamentally changed the banking industry, the retail industry, and many others. It offers a similar opportunity in healthcare.

“Barcodes are a small but essential part of that revolution. We need to embrace it, now!”

President of The Royal College of Physicians, Professor Andrew Goddard added: “Whenever something goes wrong in the NHS, people are always looking to find solutions to prevent it happening again. GS1 standards and the use of barcodes to facilitate the use of those standards are a simple, proven and highly effective way to improve patient safety and reduce costs. Winning the hearts and minds of staff is probably the biggest challenge when implementing this technology as change is always hard for busy clinical staff. Once the benefits have been seen, though, everyone 'gets it' and they see how it makes the NHS a safer and more efficient place to work. Most people then ask, ‘why didn't we do this sooner?’"

Said Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust: “Scan4Safety is a pioneering initiative to bring 21st century data standards to our everyday work in the NHS. I’m proud that at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, we were one of the original demonstrator sites and it has shown improvements in how we track patients and equipment around our seven hospitals, and, crucially, frees up staff time so they can spend more time focusing on patient care. Initiatives such as Scan4Safety are crucial for becoming an efficient, modern teaching hospital.”

Commented Gavin Boyle, chief executive of University Hospitals Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust: “If you take the surgical mesh issue, we can provide, almost instantly, historical data on which women have had which mesh implanted, by which clinician and which batch number. Whereas most hospitals would be pulling all the paper notes of hundreds of patients and would sit somebody in an office to go through them and see if they can find out – and that literally can take weeks.”

Said Glen Hodgson, head of healthcare at GS1 UK: “This report fully details the evidence from the Scan4Safety demonstrator programme. It highlights the improvements made to patient safety and financial efficiency by enabling traceability in a clinical setting through the unambiguous identification of every person, every product, and every place. It provides a compelling case for the implementation of point-of-care scanning across the NHS, particularly as we consider how to learn from the difficult lessons arising from the Cumberlege review.”


[1]Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Review (IMMDR), or Cumberlege review, was launched in 2018 to review how the health system responded to reports from patients about harmful side effects from medicines and medical devices. This was in response to reports on three medical interventions, Primodos, sodium valproate and pelvic mesh. The Cumberlege review published on 08 July 2020 and the full report can be found at: https://www.immdsreview.org.uk/downloads/IMMDSReview_Web.pdf

[2] Never Events are “serious, largely preventable patient-safety incidents that should not occur if healthcare providers have implemented existing national guidance or safety recommendations”. Between 1 April 2019 and 29 February 2020, NHS Improvement reported a total of 435 Never Events that had occurred across the NHS in England. Source: https://improvement.nhs.uk/documents/6584/Provisional_publication_-_NE_1_April_2019_-_29_February_2020.pdf

- Ends -

Notes to editors

1. In 2016, the Department of Health awarded funds to six healthcare trusts in England – the Scan4Safety demonstrator sites – to investigate how consistent use of point-of-care scanning might improve efficiency and safety within the NHS. The demonstrator programme ran over 2016/17 and 2018/19. The trusts are: North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (now University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust), Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust.

2. A scan of the benefits: the Scan4Safety evidence report is based on data collected during the demonstrator programme, as submitted to the Department of Health. It also draws on interviews with leaders at the demonstrator sites as well as those at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, where the board independently took the decision to implement Scan4Safety. The report is available to download here.

3. A licensing agreement already in place between GS1 UK and NHS Digital (lasting five years from 1 April 2019) means all acute trusts in England can generate GS1 barcodes at no additional cost. These standardised barcodes allow for the clear and unique identification of people, products and places.

4. For more information or requests for interviews, please contact gs1UK@instinctif.com.

About GS1 UK

GS1 UK is one of 115 neutral and independent GS1 organisations operating worldwide. Whether online, in store or in a hospital, the common language of GS1 global standards is helping our community of more than 42,000 organisations across Britain to uniquely identify, describe and track anything, creating greater trust in data for everyone.

From product barcodes to patient wristbands, GS1 standards have been transforming the way we work and live for more than 40 years.

www.gs1uk.org / @gs1uk