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Glen Hodgson, head of Healthcare at GS1 UK, discusses the progress of the Scan4Safety project one year on and the benefits of being able to quickly and easily track each patient through their hospital journey
The importance of GS1 standards was recently underscored by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State, who said: "Scan4Safety is a world first in healthcare – and a vital part of this government's drive to make the NHS the safest and most transparent healthcare system in the world.”
This commitment was backed by the first ever Scan4Safety leadership conference, held at the end of January, where hundreds of leaders from trusts and suppliers attended over two days to hear about the latest progress of the project.
As well as an update from the six demonstrator sites of excellence, selected by the Department of Health to demonstrate the benefits of GS1 and PEPPOL standards, senior trust leaders also attended to hear from leading figures in the health sector, including Lord Carter of Coles, Bob Alexander, deputy CEO of NHS Improvement, and Professor Terence Stephenson, chairman of the General Medical Council.
So what is it that attracts such senior people to barcoding standards? Lord Hunt of Kings Heath summarised well the attraction of barcoding standards for such senior people by highlighting how ‘it brings an improvement to safety and to efficiency, without compromising either’.
Not many things are achieving this in the NHS today but the Scan4Safety project is. The difference is that one year into the project, this benefit is now already being proven. And that’s why the Department of Health announced that it wants four annual waves for the remaining 148 trusts – the savings can exceed £1 billion. The business case is done, it now just needs to happen.
Across the two days of the recent conference, all six demonstrator sites – Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust – gave us an update on their progress so far. Their message was clear - collaboration is key. Within trusts, that means getting senior stakeholders involved to ensure their engagement in Scan4Safety. Beyond that, it also means trusts and suppliers working together in the interest of the most important priority for all involved – patient safety. Many suppliers are already proven partners in this. Pfizer are taking global standards very seriously and have over £100 million worth of technology behind their global serialisation programme. They’re advocating for global standards as much as possible.
Time is of the essence here, the deadline is still 2019/20 for compliance with the eProcurement strategy, and Lord Carter’s speech really drove this home when he said that ‘we need persistence and we need pace’. Emphasising the programme’s importance, Lord Carter said that it’s ‘the second most important change in the NHS at the moment, after staff productivity’.
Getting it right
The six Scan4Safety demonstrator sites have been busy implementing GS1 standards throughout their hospitals over the past year. Their aim is to use barcodes to identify every person, product and place – the key areas known as the three core enablers. This gives trusts the ability to know who did what to who, and where and when they did it.
Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust now allocate 100 per cent of their patients with a GS1 compliant wristband, so they can track a patient’s journey at their trust. It enables scanning of the patient at the point of care, but it also means that products used on a patient can be scanned at the same time. This gives Trusts product information such as expiry data and batch/lot number and links it to that patient. In the case of a product recall, this could be life-changing.
But, and this is the important point that senior leaders at the Scan4Safety conference repeatedly made, it doesn’t just make patients safer - it saves time and money too.
Rob Drag, Scan4Safety programme manager at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, said: “By scanning products at point-of–use, stock is now automatically replenished, releasing time for clinical staff to care. And by scanning all consumables, implants, and staff to a patient, detailed costs of a procedure are now available at the touch of a button. This helps provide clinical staff with more accurate and timely data, helping them to make better informed decisions.”
Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust is already making savings of £297,000 one year in. Rob Drag continued: “These savings are just the tip of the iceberg. The real value comes from the provision of rich data, which when leveraged correctly will force a cultural change across the trust – moving the conversation away from product price, to one based around clinical productivity.”
And, Salisbury aren’t the only ones saving money – Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has already saved £812,000 through reducing stock. And a reduction of stock consumption in theatres at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Trusts has resulted in annual savings of £1.2 million. If we’re talking about getting it right, this is helping trusts to do so.
The shift of focus that Salisbury is talking about – ‘moving the conversation away from product price, to one based around clinical productivity’ – is an important distinction for all six Scan4Safety trusts, and for GS1 UK. The clinical impact of the Scan4Safety project is increasingly emphasised, and for good reason. The quality of data that barcodes provide is changing clinical conversations because it’s arguably where the most impact can be had.
Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is very clear on this: ‘the ability to access real-time information regarding clinical variation (what products used, how long a procedure has taken, the number of staff involved, LoS etc. per procedure/per clinician)’ is the most significant efficiency achieved for Kevin Downs, director of Finance and Performance at the trust. It means clinical variation can be addressed and understood, using information that’s detailed and undisputed. This appeals to finance directors and clinicians, because they can both be more effective as a result of the details they’re given.
Collaboration within the trusts themselves has helped for a wider, more sustainable roll-out, especially when clinical engagement is there. North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, for example, has 250 clinical champions of the project. And, it’s one of the leading pieces of advice the six trusts have for others looking to replicate their success.
David Berridge, deputy Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, summarises the need for whole hospital engagement well: “If there was one thing I could say to help other Trusts embarking on this journey, it would be to treat the Scan4Safety initiative as part of the trust’s corporate strategy, as buy in at senior management level is key to ensuring timely participation in the implementation programme. This is not a procurement or supplies programme, it’s much larger than that as implementation of Scan4Safety will touch, if not affect, every part of hospital life.”
In one year, the Scan4Safety project has moved from being seen as a procurement project to one that is integral to every stage of the patient pathway. While each trust is at a different stage in its GS1 implementation journey, all six are sure of the impact it’s going to have on their future. It’s why the Department of Health is continuing to roll out the project and it’s why senior healthcare professionals are so passionate about its success.
Glen Hodgson joined GS1 UK in 2014 as head of Healthcare. He is charged with supporting the NHS and the healthcare industry to deliver greater efficiency and a more robust approach to patient safety.