Under the microscope
A look at Scan4Safety

Standardise globally...change locally

"Scan4Safety is a world first in healthcare…Using simple bar-codes that major industries rely on every day will help to transform standards of care — before, during and after patients have treatment, at the same time as freeing up resources for care by reducing waste."

The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP | Secretary of State for Health 


It’s not often that the healthcare supply chain makes prime time news, and when it does, it unfortunately is often in regard to some highly litigious product recall.

However, that was not the case in late 2016 when a successful demonstration project to prove the value of GS1 bar-coding standards was featured on BBC News and numerous other broadcast and print outlets in London. Scan4Safety is a government funded program that uses GS1 standards for product, location and patient identification to track products and their usage from the point of manufacture to the point of care. It’s a UK program, but it has global relevance. Patient care is delivered locally, one patient at a time, but those patients and those products move from location to location, often from country to country, which underscores the need for a global system of standards to identify where the patient and products are.

That’s why Graham Medwell, eBusiness and Information Manager for Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, believes healthcare worldwide needs to adopt the GS1 system of standards and that healthcare providers and suppliers need to engage in change management locally to incorporate those standards into systems and processes. Medwell shared Leeds’ Scan4Safety journey on the February GHX Global Data Standards Users Group call.

Leeds is one of the largest and busiest NHS acute health providers in the UK and one of six demonstration sites where the Scan4Safety project is being conducted.


The other five are:

>  Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

>  North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

>  Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

>  Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

>  Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust


How it works | Patient, product, place and process

Within Leeds alone, a total of six sites are working to demonstrate how GS1 standards for products, places and patients can be deployed in the purchase to pay, inventory management and product recall processes.



Leeds is working to standardise the data in its product catalogue on manufacturers’ GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) so that products are accurately and consistently identified throughout all processes and across all facilities. Product data standardisation and electronic capture is crucial to improved adverse event reporting and recall tracking. Under the Scan4Safety pilot, Leeds has been working to establish a pipeline that will electronically send product data, standardised on GS1 GTINs, all the way through to the Leeds end user systems. The goal is for the supplier bar-codes affixed to them. Leeds is working to standardise location identification down to the items in the room (e.g., cabinets, beds). This will enable the organisation to match events to a location, including those related to a person, asset, product or service.



Leeds is in the process of adopting GS1 standards for patient identification. The organisation has invested in new printing and scanning software so it can generate patient wristbands that feature a GS1 standard bar-code containing the patient identifier. A patient receives this wristband when they enter the hospital; scanning of the bar-code is used at the point of care to electronically record — in the patient’s chart — the care they received, who administered it and where it was administered. 


Leveraging Supplier Data

To make Scan4Safety work, Leeds is leveraging data published by suppliers into the Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) and populating that data into its catalogue, contract and inventory management systems. Working closely with suppliers, its technology partners and two of the other Scan4Safety demonstration sites (Salisbury and Plymouth), the number of GTINs available in the catalogue management system has grown by more than 123,000. That data also includes a number of associated product attributes.

Medwell explained that Leeds was using GTINs and GLNs in its purchasing transactions long before the Scan4Safety initiative, but now it is looking to expand their use to other critical functions impacting patient care, such as recall management. If the GTIN and the production data eg lot and/or serial number, is available in Leeds’ inventory systems and on the field safety notice, Medwell says Leeds will be able to respond to recalls much more effectively.


Cost...quality...and outcomes

The Scan4Safety program is being driven by the NHS Department of Health to improve patient safety, but it is also delivering operational and financial benefits as well.

Another one of the demonstration sites, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trusts is now populating its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with GTINs and GLNs and using them in transactions with suppliers. According to a case study on the Scan4Safety site, 1 Plymouth has streamlined the payment and product identification process for suppliers, which in turn gives them better data on which products to deliver to the trust’s hospitals. Plymouth executives also believe this will help clinical staff spend more time on front line care vs. supply chain activities. Based on results to date from the six Scan4Safety sites, the NHS believes the program has the potential to save the public health agency and its hospitals up to £1 billion for the NHS over 7 years.

The Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt stated: “Scan4Safety is a world first in healthcare…Using simple bar-codes that major industries rely on every day will help to transform standards of care — before, during and after patients have treatment, at the same time as freeing up resources for care by reducing waste.”

Karen Conway  

Executive Director Industry Relations | GHX


Original article published in 'Healthcare Purchasing News' February 2017