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Barcoding medication and replacement hips ‘could save NHS £1 billion’

Replacement hips and breast implants are to have barcodes as part of an NHS scheme to reduce waste, save money and boost patient safety.
Barcodes_tile_iStock.jpg

Replacement hips and breast implants are to have barcodes as part of an NHS scheme to reduce waste, save money and boost patient safety.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has argued that the Scan4Safety project is a world first that could save the NHS 1 billion over seven years and will improve patient safety through fewer errors.

Barcodes will show who administered treatment or performed a particular surgery, and will mean that anything from a screw in a knee operation or a replacement hip can be traced back and recalled if it becomes faulty.

Pilot scheme

Departments will have a better idea of what is in stock and what needs replacing, making stocktaking easier, Mr Hunt says.

Replacement hips and breast implants are to have barcodes as part of an NHS scheme to reduce waste, save money and boost patient safety.


Under the pilot Scan4Safety project, staff can track every unit of blood, when it was removed
from storage and when it expires. Picture: iStock

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has argued that the Scan4Safety project is a world first that could save the NHS £1 billion over seven years and will improve patient safety through fewer errors.

Barcodes will show who administered treatment or performed a particular surgery, and will mean that anything from a screw in a knee operation or a replacement hip can be traced back and recalled if it becomes faulty.

Pilot scheme 

Departments will have a better idea of what is in stock and what needs replacing, making stocktaking easier, Mr Hunt says.

He added: ‘Using simple barcodes that major industries rely on every day will help transform standards of care – before, during and after patients have treatment, and at the same time freeing up resources for care by reducing waste.’

The scheme is being piloted in six NHS trusts in Derby, Leeds, Salisbury, Cornwall, North Tees and Plymouth.

Better tracking 

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust scans bags of blood on the wards as well as details of the patient they are intended for. Staff can track every unit of blood, when it was removed from storage and when it expires. When O negative blood – the universal blood group – is removed, there is an automatic warning to restock.

Other equipment and supplies can be tracked, cutting the chance of running out of these items and reducing the time that nurses spend looking for them.

Trust director of nursing Lorna Wilkinson told Nursing Standard in July: ‘Once we have all of our equipment barcoded, we will have the ability to know where it is at any time. The main positive for me is releasing nurses’ time to care and do clinical tasks.’


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