Barcodes to make hospitals safer
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’