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eDirect Batch and Serial Numbers

You told us…

That you are unable to transmit the required eDirect batch or serial numbers to a supplier electronically at the point of order through our eDirect system.

This information was collected in our eDirect Improvement customer workshop series and ongoing customer conversations. See our Useful Links section for more information on the workshops and wider eDirect Focus project.

Why are batch and serial numbers missing?

The issue mainly occurs when an NHS trust orders through its internal third party purchase to pay (P2P) systems. There are two root cause issues:

  1. The inability to enter a free text note at either order or line level on the physical User Interface (UI) when placing an order through a third party P2P system.
  2. The inability for any successfully entered free text data to be transferred to and received by NHS Supply Chain within the order message. This occurs because:
    • The third party P2P system is not configured to extract and send the free text data to NHS Supply Chain in the outbound order message.
    • An Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) sends the order electronically in a legacy File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The NHS Supply Chain system cannot accept the additional free text fields.

Solutions that you can implement

We have delivered a series of solutions to enable the transmission of eDirect batch and serial numbers at the point of order. The below developments provide the ability to input, receive and transmit data. Also, enabling the systems to record and report the data into NHS Supply Chain invoices, reporting suite and the Supplier Portal.

If affected, we encourage NHS trusts to consider implementing one of the recommended solutions below.

NHS Supply Chain Online Ordering application

We developed our Online Ordering application to enter and transmit batch or serial data across three free text fields:

  1. Local reference:
    • Accepts 40 characters but is limited to 17 reportable characters on our TR reports.
  2. Order level field:
    • Accepts and transmits 160 characters per order.
    • Transmits the notes field to all suppliers within the order.
  3. Line level fields:
    • Accepts and transmits 240 characters per order line.
    • Transmits the line note only to the supplier the order line refers to.

Use the eDC Gold inventory management system

Our eDC Gold inventory management application is available to NHS trusts free of charge and has the functionality to better manage consignment stock. See our Useful Links section for further information on eDC and eDC Gold.

The application captures batch and serial information upon scanning the product barcode. Where there are multiple issues of the same product the orders are collated by the middleware transaction process. This then exceeds the character limits and deletes all the information transmitted to the Supplier Portal. There will be occasions where there are not multiple issues and therefore the character length is not exceeded, and this information will be displayed within the Supplier Portal.

We are looking at how we can resolve the collation issue as part of the eDirect in Focus project.

Third party P2P orders transmitted via PEPPOL

PEPPOL 4-corner flow diagram

PEPPOL is an acronym for Pan European Public Procurement Online, a .cXML order messaging methodology that operates on a 4-corner model. PEPPOL is an EDI protocol co-funded by the European Commission and 18 government agencies. Its aim is to simplify the P2P process between government bodies and suppliers. Most importantly, it offers a standardised connection for electronic ordering, invoicing, credit notes and advanced shipment notes.

NHS trusts and suppliers integrate and interact with PEPPOL access points. Following this, the PEPPOL access points transmit the messages to each other. NHS Supply Chain is PEPPOL compliant and uses the 4-corner model. The PEPPOL order message methodology can accept free text order fields at order or line level which can contain eDirect batch or serial data.

Some NHS trusts and third party system providers have sought to implement .cXML ordering direct with NHS Supply Chain and not through PEPPOL access points. Please note that this is an interim solution until a trust is PEPPOL compliant. Whilst the order messaging is similar to PEPPOL, not using the 4-corner model means that it is not PEPPOL compliant.

PEPPOL was a key part of the Department of Health and Social Care eProcurement Strategy published 2014, which states in Appendix A that PEPPOL was the messaging format to be adopted by the NHS. See our Useful Links section to read this strategy.

Remove vendor managed consignment stock

If an NHS trust does not use consignment stock, then the supplier dictated requirement for provision of batch or serial data at point of order is removed.

However, this is not a suitable solution for all SSDP (Specialised Services Devices programme (formerly known as the High-Cost Tariff-Excluded Devices programme) categories nor all NHS trusts:

  • Vendor managed consignment offers benefits in certain category areas.
  • Not all NHS trusts have the funds to purchase the vendor consigned stock.
  • Not all NHS trusts have inventory management systems or robust inventory management processes to mitigate the risk of loss, damage and expiry.

What are other NHS trusts doing?

Becoming PEPPOL compliant. This is the advisable solution and if you are wanting to become PEPPOL complaint our NetEDI team can assist you. They are the NHS Supply Chain’s PEPPOL Access Point and EDI Managed Service Provider:

Cegedim e-business

0800 319 6134

NHS trusts that have migrated to NHS Supply Chain transactional model and have negotiated and developed their selected third party P2P systems accordingly. We are happy to work with you and help facilitate these cross business discussions. Please contact us for assistance:

Client Services Helpdesk

0800 086 8670

Future developments

As part of the eDirect in Focus project we are working on resolving the character limit imposed across our Online Ordering application and eDC Gold systems. As referenced above, although the order or line batch and serial data can be captured, when it exceeds the character limit the characters are truncated. The data is not fully transferred through to the Supplier Portal to be included on the relevant paperwork.

Currently we are investigating the best way to deliver the solution, for instance, we could remove the character limit or potentially change the functionality of our eCommerce platform. We will share the progress of this technical update as soon as we have further information to provide.