Government challenges trusts to adopt track-and-trace technologies to avoid reported incidents of harm in hospitals
Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced a Sign up to Safety campaign that encourages NHS trusts to draw up plans for halving incidents which can cause avoidable harm such as medication errors, blood clots and bedsores.
Some of the reported incidents can be greatly reduced, he says, through the standardisation of systems used to ensure that instruments, devices and materials used during operations are properly accounted for before, during and after every operation.
In short, the items and instruments used in operating theatres should be counted before the procedure and accounted for at the end of the procedure. This process can be very time-consuming and is clearly prone to human error. Therefore, the use of automated systems could have an important role to play, he adds.
The announcement lays out a timescale for improvements of 2016/17 and has been welcomed by GS1 UK, which provides trusts with unique identifiers for products, and helps them to track and trace them throughout their lifetime.
GS1 standard technologies such as barcoding are already mandated by NHS England to improve procurement efficiency and reduce costs. The use of these same technologies in operating theatres could also help to improve patient safety
Spokesman, Chris Doyle, said: “GS1 standard technologies such as barcoding are already mandated by NHS England to improve procurement efficiency and reduce costs. The use of these same technologies in operating theatres could also help to improve patient safety.”
He added: “Most people are familiar with automated checkouts in supermarkets and the warning ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’. This technology which enables the till to know where each item is and whether it has been properly accounted for can also be applied to theatre environments.
“Simple barcoding can make counting items faster and more accurate. The addition of electronic tagging of items, such as surgical instruments, can make counts instant and automatic – improving efficiency and safety in the operating theatre.
Widespread implementation of GS1 standards has the potential to improve patient safety, reduce cost and improve efficiency in the delivery of healthcare. We look forward to working with hospitals and technology partners to implement systems which will deliver these benefits and boost the efficacy of campaigns such as Sign up to Safety.
Unsafe care is not just bad for patients; it also wastes money and wastes time - longer stays, more treatment and more re-admissions
Announcing the campaign, Hunt said that over the next three years it was hoped that 6,000 lives will be saved.
He added: “Unsafe care is not just bad for patients; it also wastes money and wastes time - longer stays, more treatment and more re-admissions. According to one study £1billion worth of bed days in the NHS were wasted on preventable harm - £1billion that could have been spent on more staff and improved care.”