Scan4Safety is an initiative implemented in healthcare in the United Kingdom. Launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in 2016, this innovation aims to enhance patient safety, improve operational efficiency, and reduce costs within NHS hospitals. 

Scan4Safety is focused on end-to-end scanning of barcodes, contributing significantly to inventory management by improving supply chain visibility and enhancing patient safety through accurate point-of-care scanning and streamlining data entry processes and documentation.  

View the Scan4Safety evidence report

Key objectives

Key components and objectives of the locally implemented Scan4Safety include:

The heart of Scan4Safety is the implementation of unique barcodes for patients, medical equipment, and products used in healthcare settings. Each barcode is associated with detailed information, ensuring accurate identification and tracking.

By using barcodes to match patients with their treatments, medications, and surgical procedures, the programme significantly reduces the risk of errors and enhances patient safety. This minimises the chances of administering incorrect medications or procedures.

Scan4Safety streamlines hospital processes by automating inventory management, reducing paperwork, and eliminating manual data entry. This increases operational efficiency and frees up healthcare staff for patient care.

Scan4Safety can lead to cost savings for healthcare providers through better inventory control, reduction in errors, and more efficient resource allocation.

Scan4Safety enables healthcare providers to access in-depth data analytics through barcode scanning, which can help identify areas for improvement, monitor the effectiveness of treatments, and optimise resource allocation.

Scan4Safety promotes transparency in healthcare processes. It allows healthcare providers to track the movement of products and medications from manufacturer to patient, increasing accountability and reducing the potential for fraud or waste.

Scan4Safety is designed to be scalable, allowing hospitals of various sizes and specialties to adopt its principles and technologies, regardless of their current IT infrastructure.

Scan4Safety minimises errors and enhances the overall efficiency of healthcare delivery, contributing to reduced waiting times, and an improved patient experience, resulting in higher patient satisfaction levels.

Identification: In the event of a product recall, healthcare providers can quickly identify affected items by scanning their barcodes, making it easier to locate and remove them from use.Efficiency: When a product recall is initiated, healthcare providers can swiftly and accurately determine which patients have been exposed to the product. This allows for timely patient notifications and interventions.Data analytics: The data collected through Scan4Safety can be utilised to track the distribution of recalled items, assess the impact on patient care, and monitor the progress of the recall.Patient safety: By reducing the risk of administering recalled or unsafe products, Scan4Safety contributes to improved patient safety.Compliance: Scan4Safety provides a reliable means of verifying that recalled items have been properly removed from inventory and patient care, which helps ensure compliance with recall notifications and regulatory requirements.

Download the Scan4Safety promotional poster for your organisation

Overall, Scan4Safety represents a significant step forward in modernising healthcare delivery. It leverages technology to improve patient outcomes, increase operational efficiency, and reduce costs, ultimately making healthcare more accessible and safer for patients in England and potentially serving as a model for similar initiatives worldwide.

The role of NHS England in promoting Scan4Safety

NHS England is promoting and overseeing the implementation of Scan4Safety across NHS trusts.

It provides advice and guidance to NHS organisations interested in implementing the Scan4Safety initiative locally:

Providing advice and guidance: Offering expert advice and guidance to healthcare organisations on how to implement Scan4Safety effectively. This includes helping organisations to understand the programme’s principles, goals, benefits and best practices.

How To Get Started

Knowledge sharing: Facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration among healthcare organisations that have implemented or are considering implementing Scan4Safety. This sharing of experiences and best practices can accelerate the adoption of Scan4Safety.

Compliance and regulatory support: Helping healthcare organisations navigate compliance and regulatory requirements related to the use of barcode technology in healthcare by providing connections to the relevant regulators and other partners working on relevant initiatives.

Monitoring and evaluation: NHS England can assist in setting up monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the impact of Scan4Safety locally. This includes tracking benefits such as patient safety improvements, efficiency gains, and cost savings achieved.

In summary, NHS England serves as a resource for NHS organisations by offering expertise, support, and guidance related to the Scan4Safety implementation process. Our efforts are aimed at ensuring that the benefits of Scan4Safety, such as improved patient safety and operational efficiency, are realised at the local level within healthcare facilities.

Scan4Safety and Outcomes Registry

The work surrounding Scan4Safety shares important links with other national programmes, including NHS England’s Outcomes and Registries programme.

The Outcomes and Registries programme was established in 2022 to develop a single, unified registry solution – the Outcome Registries platform. The platform consolidates existing implantable device-level registries and implements new outcome registry data collections to address data and vigilance gaps, enabling the prevention of patient safety issues and adverse outcomes.  It also fulfils the recommendations of the Independent Medicine and Medical Device Safety Review (IMMDS) (2020) and Paterson Inquiry (2020).

The government’s mandate to NHS England stipulates that by March 2024, all trusts should adopt barcode scanning of high-risk medical devices and submission to the national, mandatory Outcomes Registries Platform which addresses the need for a more consistent approach to assure safety and satisfactory outcomes of the patient procedures.

Scan4Safety can support data input into registries. Scan4Safety helps ensure the correct procedures for patients at the appropriate time and offers an uncomplicated means of inputting this data into clinical registries. The collaborative effort in these two domains serves to minimise errors and enhance the effectiveness of data collection related to medical implants and subsequent patient outcomes. Together, the two programmes aim to provide a more comprehensive understanding of healthcare processes, interventions, and their effects on patient care.

Find out more about Outcomes and Registries Programme

Scan4Safety partners

The Scan4Safety programme in the United Kingdom involves partnerships and collaborations with various organisations to support its implementation and objectives. Some key partner organisations and stakeholders associated with Scan4Safety include:

GS1 healthcare case studies

GS1 UK is a not-for-profit organisation that provides standards and solutions for product identification and barcoding. It collaborates with Scan4Safety to establish and maintain barcode standards for healthcare products and equipment. Many regulatory authorities, including the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK, require the use of GS1 standards for product identification and tracking in healthcare. Compliance with these standards is essential to meet regulatory requirements.

Inventory Management Solution full article

NHS Supply Chain is working on the Inventory Management Solution programme which will enable local system integrations and point of care scanning. That in turn will support and accelerate wider Scan4Safety adoption in the NHS trusts by providing inventory visibility of high-risk medical devices in high-cost areas of the healthcare organisation.

A small team within TSAS looks after the NHS Standards (DAPB0108: Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) and  DCB1077: AIDC for Patient Identification) relating to Scan4Safety and maintains the formal relationship between NHS England and GS1 UK. This centrally managed agreement between the two organisations enables all NHS Organisations to generate GS1 Standards, for example, to create DCB1077 compliant patient wrist bands.

The Central Commercial Function (CCF) is the commercial service offer for the NHS by NHS England. Its team of procurement, commercial and subject matter experts within the NHS England Commercial Directorate are responsible for delivering support, guidance for the wider NHS community.

The Strategic framework for NHS Commercial
In November 2023, the Strategic framework for the NHS commercial sector was published. It covers the ambitions and objectives for the next five years. The vision is to be a globally renowned commercial function in healthcare, supporting the NHS to deliver world class patient care and outcomes. To realise this vision, the strategic framework, developed in partnership with NHS commercial professionals and aligned to the Government Commercial Function, seeks to bring together the efforts of the NHS commercial community, drive collaboration across commercial teams, leverage NHS collective buying power and provide clear, consistent guidance on how to contract with the NHS.
Scan4Safety is interconnected with two for the 26 interventions the framework commits to:

Prioritise safety
To promote Scan4Safety as a priority within NHS England’s Digital Clinical Safety Strategy to improve patient safety, traceability, operational productivity and supply chain efficiency.
Adopt integrated inventory management
Aligned to Scan4Safety, NHS Supply Chain will accelerate the adoption of integrated inventory management capabilities across providers to deliver demand insight and optimisation, improve operational resilience and reduce patient risk.
The ambition is that this framework will help raise overall productivity and efficiency, through a combination of continuous improvement and transformation in the way that patient care is delivered and supported through commercial practice.

UK MHRA 2024/25 Roadmap of Future Regulatory Framework

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) regulates medical devices under the Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021 (MMD Act) and the Medical Devices Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No 618, as amended) (MDR 2002). Under these regulations, medical devices placed on the GB market have to be registered with the MHRA, essentially creating a ‘master’ list of all devices in the UK.

One of the data elements collected at device registration is the Unique Device Identifier (UDI), which allows for clear and unambiguous identification of the device. MHRA is working with Scan4Safety to disseminate this master list of devices to sites in order to provide a reliable basis to share information and realise the benefits as detailed in the evidence report.

These partner organisations collaborate to support the adoption of barcode technology and best practices in healthcare settings, with the overarching goal of improving patient safety, operational efficiency, and cost-effectiveness within the NHS.