Twelve NHS trusts have been shortlisted by the Department of Health as potential test sites for rolling out GS1 barcoding standards.

The trusts have been asked to prepare a business case to work with the company to implement the system.


The barcoding standards have been used in retail for many years

GS1’s barcoding standards provide unique identification for items and people through the use of barcode and radio frequency identification, and have been routinely used in the retail sector for many years.

In 2014, the DH mandated the use of the standards in its NHS eProcurement strategy, meaning all trusts had to draw up plans to implement the system.

Six of the shortlisted organisations will be selected to become “model” sites, and will each receive £2m to implement the standards over two years.

The 12 shortlisted sites, chosen from 28 applicants, are:

  • Salisbury FT;
  • Derby Teaching Hospitals FT;
  • Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust;
  • North Tees and Hartlepool FT;
  • Cambridge University Hospitals FT;
  • Portsmouth Hospitals Trust;
  • Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust;
  • The Royal Wolverhampton Trust;
  • Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT;
  • Plymouth Hospitals Trust;
  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust; and
  • Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Some, such as Derby Teaching Hospitals, have already started using the standards, and being a demonstrator site will help them roll them out across all departments. However, there has been little progress at many other organisations.

The demonstrators will also implement the Pan European Public Procurement Online messaging standards, known as PEPPOL, which was also mandated by the DH.

Consultancy firm McKinsey has estimated a 600 bed trust could achieve recurring of savings of £3m by fully implementing the GS1 system.

It is thought the barcodes will help cut unnecessary expenditure, by enabling faster and more accurate stocktakes, as well as reducing the need for staff to carry out these tasks.

They can also drive up clinical safety standards, according to the DH, because implants such as hip and knee replacements would be tagged. Better records of what implants have gone into which patients are crucial in the event of a product being recalled.

An update published on the NHS Supply Chain website said: “Three professional services providers have been appointed and funded by DH to each support four of the candidate demonstrator sites in developing a detailed business case.

“From these twelve, we will select the final six prior to Christmas, with implementation starting in the selected demonstrator sites in January 2016.”