The government has mandated that all trusts across England should adopt barcode scanning of high-risk medical devices by March 2024 to digitally transform the NHS and ensure its long-term sustainability. 

The deadline is a clear reflection of the vital role barcode scanning can play in levelling up the NHS’s digital maturity and infrastructure.

This has already been proven by the Scan4Safety initiative which, in 2016, saw six trusts implement GS1 powered barcodes to uniquely identify every person, product and place.

By enabling end-to-end traceability and cohesive, interoperable processes throughout the entire patient pathway, the initial programme released over 140 thousand hours of clinical time back into care along with almost £5 million in recurrent inventory savings and £9 million of non-recurrent inventory reductions.

Each objective can be supported by the adoption of point of care barcode scanning powered by GS1 standards, further strengthening the case for widespread adoption. This in turn will support digital transformation, boost efficiency and enhance patient safety.

Scan4Safety was relaunched by NHS England in October 2022 and continues to gain momentum. 31 per cent of trusts in England have now adopted GS1 standards and programmes are now being implemented across Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Mandate sets out key tech objectives

Published on 15 June, the government’s 2023 mandate to NHS England has set out key objectives for cutting waiting lists and recovering performance as well as enhancing the service’s use of technology and its workforce.

The mandate states that any data captured must be submitted to the national mandatory Medical Device Outcome Registry (MDOR) to improve patient safety and outcomes in procedures using high risk medical devices.

Scan4Safety and the MDOR can work in tandem to improve the traceability of medical devices from manufacture through to the end patient.

This relies heavily on unique identification as suppliers need to ensure unique device identifiers (UDIs) are issued to their products. More than 95% are already using GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to do so.

Glen Hodgson, head of healthcare at GS1 UK, said: “It is very highly encouraging to see the government recognise the importance of point of care barcode scanning. This mandate will act as a powerful catalyst for encouraging more organisations to harness the power of data to adapt to the challenges of today and build resilience for the future.

“We are already supporting the next generation of Scan4Safety adopters and will expand this support to any organisation that wishes to implement GS1 standards. We look forward to seeing the impact of the programme’s continued growth in the coming months and years.”

NHS England has also renewed its drive for Scan4Safety adoption with launch of new website, available here.

It will act as a central information hub, providing case studies, updates, tools, resources and practical advice for any trusts looking to expand or embark on their own adoption journeys.  A website for NHS Scotland’s Scan for Safety programme can also be accessed here.