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Barcodes to save NHS money and improve patient safety

In a move that could save the NHS millions of pounds, barcode technology will be used across all NHS trusts by the end of 2012, the Department of Healt...

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|Jun 13|magazine7 min read

In a move that could save the NHS millions of pounds, barcode technology will be used across all NHS trusts by the end of 2012, the Department of Health has said.

The new ‘GS-1’ standard barcodes will be used on all products that are bought by the NHS and it will make it easier to track and compare purchases between trusts.

Some hospitals have to pay three-times more for everyday products like surgical gloves than others, an outgoing which costs the NHS £6 billion a year.

It is hoped that by using barcodes to compare the price of such purchases the NHS will be able to make significant savings.  

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Aside from cutting costs, the use of barcodes will also help to improve patient safety as they have been proven to reduce medication errors.

Barcode technology is also able to effectively track and trace surgical instruments and equipment, which helps to improve record keeping processes and reduce error and contamination.

The retail sector is one industry which has already implemented a ‘one barcode’ system and it has enabled comparison websites to help shoppers save money on their groceries.

Health Minister Simon Burns said in an interview: “The NHS cannot afford to continue paying different prices for the same products.”

“By simply using barcodes, NHS procurement will become more efficient as organisations can see how much they are paying for products compared to others.”

He added: “It’s a simple idea that could save the NHS millions.”

“Most importantly this is a vital opportunity to save money for reinvestment in front-line care at a time when the NHS needs to make efficiency savings,” he continues.

“The NHS has enormous buying power if it works consistently and GS-1 bar-coding is a key foundation block to improve it.”

The Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trusts have already implanted barcode technology and has managed to save more than £500,000 in the first year of their use.

To implement the use of barcodes across the whole of the NHS, health ministers are asking the businesses that supply the NHS to increasingly use GS-1 barcodes on their products.