NHS Trusts to Adopt Barcode Scanning by 2024: A Guide to the GS1 Mandate

In 2023, the UK government set out a mandate to ensure that all trusts across the country are compliant with GS1 barcode standards by March 2024. This mandate was brought about by the urge to improve patient care and decrease costs, as well as introducing digitally enhanced health and social care for patients that is future-proofed and sustainable for the long-term.

GS1 standards have a vital role to play in the ongoing development of the NHS, and this 2024 deadline has only proven it further.

What is GS1 global barcode format?

GS1 is a standard format that is used globally to help businesses standardise their processes and ensure each step of an operation is logged and recorded. This is ideal practice in a number of industries such as manufacturing or distribution, and recent trials have shown that it is also ideal for healthcare.

Essentially, each person, product and place within the trust is assigned a unique identifier that is scanned at each point of any process. For example, if any medical devices are taken from one area to be used in a second location, the identifier would be scanned and the information captured.

There are different types of GS1 identifiers, depending on the items they are assigned to, and the ones that must be in place within the NHS are:

  • Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs): GTINs are unique identifiers that track products and equipment
  • Global Location Numbers (GLNs): GLNs identify locations within healthcare
  • Global Service Relation Numbers (GSRNs): GSRNs are used to identify staff (from cleaners to clinicians) and patients

Adopting data scanning powered by GS1 standards means that trusts across NHS England are collecting data in the same way, and can therefore transfer information across locations without any mistakes or confusion.

Using GS1 standards to improve NHS England

The GS1 UK mandate has been introduced following a successful trial across six NHS trusts, called Scan4Safety. The purpose of the trial was to find an effective method of data capture in the hopes to improve patient safety, reduce costs, and release hours back into patient care.

Barcode scanning powered by GS1 was proven to be an effective method of collecting data from each location, with improvements seen across a range of areas. Within two weeks of implementation, one of the organisations involved in the trial saw more than £30,000 worth of time delivered back into the patient pathway as a result of reducing manual data entry. This released time enhanced patient safety and also freed up an average of 1.5 nurses from stock control tasks.

There was also significant cost savings across all locations, and a reduced error rate of 76% within pharmacy departments, showing that this standardised format has already been proven to transform the NHS. The full statistics can be seen in the case studies resulting from the trial.

GS1 standards in healthcare has helped to improve patient safety and outcomes in procedures, and the government is now mandating healthcare organisations across the UK to adopt point of care data collection.

Alongside the barcode assignments, NHS employees will have to standardise their job titles and descriptions so that all locations across the country have a common understanding of responsibilities within the workforce. This must be finalised by 1st March 2024, and all staff must be wearing their updated ID badges (containing their new job title and a unique identification code) at all times in a visible location.

Preparing for the 2023 mandate to NHS England

GS1 standards are helping to digitally transform the English healthcare landscape, and whilst there are organisations already implementing the technology, there are some NHS foundations that are yet to adopt barcode scanning of high-risk medical equipment, staff, and patients.

ID Card Centre can help to simplify your process. With a wide range of printing accessories, we can help you to find a solution that seamlessly integrate with your GS1 data collection system, allowing you to print labels or cards containing a GS1 barcode for equipment, staff, and patients. With our solutions, you can achieve end-to-end traceability and improve the NHS's digital maturity and infrastructure.

With more than 20 years in the identity solutions industry, we have a high level of knowledge thanks to working with a number of healthcare organisations. Our expert team understands the pressures faced by the NHS, and can help to implement GS1 scanning and standardisation. To comply with the new GS1 standards by the deadline, we recommend that trusts begin the process of updating their records and printing new ID badges as soon as possible.

We are proud stockists of CardExchange Business, the only ID card production software that has passed healthcare GS1 standardisation testing. With this software, you can easily create GS1-ready barcodes and apply them to your updated staff ID badges at the same time as updating job titles.

If you need to upgrade your printer or order more consumables, such as cards or ribbons, our central UK warehouse stocks a wide variety of consumables ready for same-day dispatch. That means you can get the products you need quickly, ensuring the GS1 standardisation process is seamless and simple.

For more information on how ID Card Centre can help healthcare organisations across England to implement GS1 scanning standardisation, please get in touch with a member of our expert team.