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NHS Supply Chain Launches Policy on Data Standards for Supplier Product Coding

22 April 2024

Improving data on medical devices across the NHS system is a key contributor to improving patient safety through greater and more rapid traceability.

At present medical device data is not routinely collected in a consistent manner or standardised digital format. Current processes are often paper-based and lack standardisation and validation, which means that tracing medical devices is time consuming and laborious and linking devices to patient outcomes difficult.

Our vision is that a single scan from inventory management systems can be integrated to have many uses across the NHS, tackling financial and workforce challenges and most importantly improving patient safety. Integrated inventory management is a critical enabler of NHS England’s Scan4Safety initiative, supporting point of care scanning. It will also provide a valuable source of data into their Federated Data Platform driving system wide visibility of inventory data and supporting resilience.

To accelerate traceability of medical devices, we are launching a policy on Data Standards for Supplier Product Coding. All of our medical devices and clinical consumables suppliers are to adopt globally recognised coding standards for product identification, preferably the GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). We also require medical devices to carry ‘Unique Device Identification’ (UDI) compliant barcode labels, which will carry scannable information relating to the production of the device, for example the expiry date and the serial or lot number. Additionally clinical consumable products should carry a barcode label so that the product can be scanned for inventory management purposes.

The adoption of global standards, such as GS1, for product identification, enhances the traceability of medical devices and other products used in an episode of patient care. In line with our vision to make it easier for the NHS to put patients first adopting global data standards will help to reduce the clinical time required for product or patient recall.

The GS1 standards provide a common foundation and consistent format and enables the unique identification, capture and sharing of information automatically. When data describing medical devices is captured electronically it can be easily associated with a patient and provide accurate information about which devices have been used in their care. This electronic data capture for product forms part of the NHS England Scan4Safety programme methodology to capture data for person (patient and caregiver), product, place and procedure.

Access to this data electronically in a standard format enables it to be interrogated and performance of medical devices can be monitored, patient outcomes measured, and any potential issues with devices can be identified faster and more easily allowing clinicians to intervene and if necessary, prevent harm before it happens.

The policy will also support NHS Supply Chain in improving the quality of its critical product data and increasing the number of GTINs we hold for medical products in our catalogue.

The policy is owned by the In Hospital Services business unit. This is a new business unit that will focus on establishing integrated inventory management, as referenced in NHS England’s Strategic Framework for NHS Commercial.

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Downloads ▼

  • Data Standards Supplier Product Coding Policy

    A policy describing GS1 as NHS Supply Chain's preferred data coding standard for products.
  • Supplier Requirements Guidance - Data Standards Product Coding

    Guidance for suppliers to accompany our policy on GS1 as the preferred data coding standard for products.