Bar­codes to make hos­pi­tals safer

Sunday Express - - BREXIT BRITAIN VOTE - By Lucy John­ston

A SU­PER­MAR­KET-STYLE bar­code scan­ning sys­tem could rev­o­lu­tionise hospi­tal safety and save the NHS mil­lions of pounds, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Health.

The tech­nol­ogy – used in re­tail for decades – has been tested in six hos­pi­tals in a pro­gramme called Scan4Safety.

It can help de­ter­mine whether prod­ucts are safe to use and still in date, slash need­less stock­pil­ing and also help track pa­tients who have been given im­plants which turn out to be faulty.

After tests in Derby, Leeds, Sal­is­bury, Corn­wall, North Tees and Ply­mouth, scan­ning could soon be rolled out across all Trusts in Eng­land.

Fig­ures show each hospi­tal would save £11mil­lion a year by adopt­ing the scheme.

Early es­ti­mates from the six pi­lots – the full find­ings of which will be pub­lished by March – show time freed up would also equate to 2,400 ex­tra nurses for the NHS.

The sys­tem has been pi­o­neered by Cork-based com­pany Gen­e­sis Au­to­ma­tion and is now be­ing im­ple­mented in­de­pen­dently in 27 NHS sites to help track, trace and man­age stock. The equip­ment, which uses a hand-held mo­bile phone-style scan­ning de­vice, al­lows staff to com­pare the costs of pro­ce­dures be­tween doc­tors and hos­pi­tals, and re­call pa­tients who re­ceive dodgy im­plants – such as the 47,000 women given PIP sil­i­cone breast im­plants.

The tech­nol­ogy will also en­sure crit­i­cal and cor­rect stock is al­ways avail­able in op­er­at­ing the­atres, help­ing to pre­vent can­celled pro­ce­dures.

The news will go some way to­ward eas­ing the fi­nan­cial plight of an in­creas­ing num­ber of trusts. In 2015-16, two-thirds were in deficit to a to­tal of £2.45bil­lion.

Un­der Scan4Safety, uni­ver­sal bar­codes are at­tached to all sup­plies and equip­ment, from or­thopaedic im­plants and pace­mak­ers to swabs, scalpels and linen. Even staff have in­di­vid­ual badge codes, as does the wrist­band of ev­ery pa­tient, which means it is pos­si­ble to track, count and cost ev­ery­thing used in the hospi­tal.

This means trusts have an electronic in­ven­tory of all prod­ucts and can au­to­mat­i­cally order more when needed.

A Gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port pub­lished in 2016 con­cluded up to £1bil­lion a year could be saved over three years if stock were man­aged bet­ter.

A De­part­ment of Health and So­cial Care spokesman said: “Tech­nol­ogy can have enor­mous ben­e­fits for both pa­tients and for staff. This is a great ex­am­ple of where a seem­ingly sim­ple piece of tech­nol­ogy can make a world of dif­fer­ence and free up clin­i­cians so they can spend more time with pa­tients.

“The abil­ity to track med­i­cal sup­plies from man­u­fac­ture to in­di­vid­ual pa­tients is an­other step in the use of cut­ting-edge dig­i­tal meth­ods to im­prove care and re­duce risk – and we want to see more of this hap­pen­ing across the coun­try.

“Our long-term plan sets out how we will in­te­grate more tech­nol­ogy into the NHS, mak­ing our health ser­vice fit for the fu­ture and en­sur­ing tax­pay­ers’ money is spent as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble.”

‘Sys­tem will save NHS Trusts mil­lions’

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