Barcode Technology Eyed as NHS Money Saver

Six NHS trusts are trialling barcode technology with a view to ultimately rolling the technology out across the NHS.

Scan4Safety aims to reduce mistakes and cut costs within NHS in England.

Universal barcodes are attached to medical supplies and equipment, as well as to patients, nurses and doctors.

Codes are scanned during every stage of the treatment of a patient.

While the technology has numerous applications, it is thought to be particularly valuable in reducing the number of incorrect implants and blood transfusions.

Elsewhere, it has been suggested that barcode technology could save the NHS as much as £150 million annually.

But the Department of Health has yet to confirm the cost of rolling out this technology throughout the entirety of the NHS system.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has already commented on the issue, suggesting that although the initial expenditure will be high, the barcode ystem will more than pay for itself.

“The costs will be of that order to begin with, but of course the savings are huge because one of the most expensive things you can do in a trust is to give someone the wrong care. We still have sadly too many avoidable deaths – around 150 every week across the NHS. And what you do with modern technology is you reduce the chances of this happening.”

The Department of Health claims that early results from the six pilot trusts suggest that the technology could save £1 billion for the NHS over six or seven years.

Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told Sky News, is enthusiastic about the potential of the system, but also had warnings regarding bedding in such technology.

“Inevitably there will be some teething problems and I think that what we have to do is to plan as we roll it out to make sure that we are really aware of those teething problems in advance so that we can create the additional resource at the beginning of the project.”

While Tim Wells, a consultant cardiologist at Salisbury NHS Trust, one of the six pilot sites, was enthusiastic about the potential of barcode technology.

“In terms of patient safety, it will reduce any patient errors in terms of drug administration and blood products. We know exactly what the patient is receiving and who’s giving it to them, and where they’re receiving it.”

It is hoped that once the technology is installed it can contribute towards the £22 billion worth of efficiency savings sought by the government.


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