NHS Trust boosts stock control with GS1

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Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has cut stock levels by £570,000 since rolling out a GS1 barcode scanning-based stock control and forecasting system.

The system, known as CHOC Stock, provides live updates of stock usage through barcode scanning at point of use, which has helped boost inventory accuracy and reduce unnecessary stock, without the risk of stock-outs.

Forecasting accuracy has also been improved, alongside productivity, with service levels rising to 98 per cent since installing the system.

The trust provides hospital services for the population of Leeds and the surrounding area and acts as a regional centre for various specialist services such as cancer and cardiac surgery. In total it employs over 14,000 staff across eight sites, treating around a million patients a year.

The system has been rolled out across the entire hospital, and there are now 3,000 barcoded items which can be scanned at 270 stocking points.

Initially, the Chapel Allerton Hospital Orthopaedic Centre was identified as a priority for increased stock management due to its high stock levels and system integrity problems.

As a result, the IT team focused on improving the trust’s product data quality to provide live and accurate updates to its stock and patient systems. Once all the product lines were identified and recorded, it worked with suppliers through GHX, the healthcare e-commerce exchange provider, to enrich the data.

Suppliers had to then provide the trust with GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers, and specific product attributes. Using GHX’s web-hosted Nexus cataloguing system, the trust and its suppliers can now access, upload and maintain approved lists of centrally managed product information.

When patients arrive for treatment and their identification is entered onto the administration system, the consumables for the treatment are allocated to the patient automatically by scanning their barcodes.

By only scanning the stock that was actually used during the procedure, the information on costs by procedure and implant data for the National Joint Registry can be recorded accurately and in real time. Any unused stock is returned to the store immediately.

Graham Medwell, information manager, supplies department, at the Trust, says: “Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust fully supports the Department of Health’s recommendations that the GS1 coding system should be adopted throughout the healthcare system in England and we have been working closely with GS1 UK to ensure that we meet these requirements. We are also helping to drive the adoption of GS1 standards to improve patient safety and productivity through our active participation in the GS1 Healthcare User Group’s Leadership Team.”

RFID pilot:

The trust also carried out an RFID pilot to track and trace its orthopaedic loan kits containing vital hip and knee joints. The pilot identified benefits in early demand information for hospital staff and suppliers, and helped reduce administration and improve efficiency.

Orthopaedic kits or modules are usually ordered on loan to the trust on a consignment basis and only the elements that are used or not returned to the supplier are invoiced.

The trust usually has to carry out a manually-intensive checking process, which can take up to two hours, at each point in the lifecycle of a kit by both the supplier and the trust, to ensure that all the elements are accountable at all times.

Loan kit orders are normally made by phone, which leads to inconsistencies, and they can’t be tracked from purchase order to invoice due to the manual process.

The trust says the ordering, checking and invoicing processes for these kits are time-consuming, labour-intensive and often result in lengthy invoice reconciliations.

As a result, it ran an RFID pilot to see whether the technology could help simplify the ad-hoc checking, receipting, issuing and final return of its orthopaedic kits. It worked with GS1 UK, Depuy, Sybase and GHX to carry it out.

Each item in the kit was RFID tagged using EPC Gen 2 Class 1 tags and identified with a unique code, allocated by the supplier, to track and trace all elements in each kit.

The RFID system was also integrated with the existing stock control system, which was already linked to the purchasing and corporate ERP system. This allowed staff to create a shopping list for each kit so that orders could be generated by drag and drop-style requisitioning.

The requisitions were then matched with the purchasing system where purchase orders were produced and then transmitted electronically to the supplier.

The trust reported “significant” benefits from implementing RFID technology. For example, staff no longer had to manually check and count the contents of each kit. And the turnaround time for suppliers from sale to receipt of payment was reduced to some ten days – compared to the current two months – due to less administration and more accurate invoicing.

“Our RFID pilot has proven that the technology is scalable and the concept is possible. To be able to fully implement RFID at Leeds and reap the benefits, we would need to drive adoption within the healthcare sector. We need to get the major suppliers and healthcare providers on board to see the benefit of implementing RFID in healthcare,” says Medwell.


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