Where do GS1 standards fit into the Strategic Framework for NHS Commercial?

With the launch of NHS England's new Strategic Framework for NHS Commercial, GS1 UK highlights the role of GS1 standards and Scan4Safety as part of the procurement framework.

Stock room scanning

Today, 28 November 2023, NHS England launched a new Strategic Framework for NHS Commercial – “the first Strategic Framework for NHS Commercial in England for over 10 years”.

The new national framework sets out a series of ambitions and objectives to transform NHS Procurement over the next five years. This takes the form of a 26-point plan of priorities, housed under four overarching strategic themes, to strengthen procurement approaches across the NHS in England.

The four strategic themes

The umbrella themes for the strategy focus on:

  • People
    Attracting and retaining commercial talent to execute transformation initiatives.
  • Digital and transparency
    Focus on quality and accurate data to drive transparency and consistency across the system.
  • Ways of working
    Building agile processes that allow procurement functions to be flexible while ensuring best practice and consistency at a national level.
  • Influence and scale
    Leveraging existing networks and partnerships to help shape the market, foster healthy supply markets and unlock benefits from innovation.

Where do GS1 standards fit into the aims of the framework?

A key part of the plan centres on delivering greater savings for trust budgets, while also seeing through the transformative projects that will make NHS procurement more effective.

Among other goals, part of this involves:

  • Embedding a resilient commercial and supply chain operating model
  • Improving patient pathways and healthcare outcomes
  • Securing cash releasing, total cost efficiencies

This is where the benefits of GS1 standards  support digital and transparency goals, as well as working practices to promote procurement efficiencies.

GS1 standards and Scan4Safety: the three key points:

  1. Implementing a national, unified, product data ‘ecosystem’ – built upon a national Product Information Management solution (PIM) – to produce accurate, clean product data aligned to national data standards (e.g., GS1) and relevant classification models.
  2. Promoting Scan4Safety as a priority within NHS England’s Digital Clinical Safety Strategy to improve patient safety, traceability, operational productivity and supply chain efficiency.
  3. Alignment 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. A new Digital Commerce Platform will enable the omnichannel capabilities to deliver a modern, retail-style customer experience.

GS1 standards and procurement efficiency

GS1 standards are used to uniquely identify people, products and places throughout the supply chain and patient pathway. This enables products to be tracked and traced efficiently, all the way from the point of manufacture to the patient, to improve traceability and patient safety.

By implementing GS1 standards as part of the Scan4Safety programme, trusts have seen significant financial savings. From the Scan4Safety programme alone, trusts reported £5m worth of recurrent inventory savings and £9m of non-recurrent inventory reductions over the initial two-year period. This equates to £116m and £210m respectively across the NHS in England alone.

However, it is the patient safety benefits afforded by point-of-care scanning that have the most significant impact on patient care and outcomes.

The 2020 Cumberlege Review states, “The Scan4Safety programme has shown that the technology exists to create a medical devices database that records the UDI [unique device identifier] for each device.” By capturing unique product data i.e. batch, lot number, and expiry date at the point of care, products can be easily identified and removed from circulation within minutes/hours in the event of a product recall to reduce the risk of patient harm.

Current national programmes recognise and support the need for unique identification as a patient safety measure. This is openly reflected in programmes such as the digital clinical safety strategy and the outcomes and registries programme.

National Scan4Safety programmes

Scan4Safety continues to gain momentum in England and now sits under the NHS England Transformation Directorate as part of The Digital Clinical Safety Strategy. National programmes have since launched in Scotland and Wales, with Northern Ireland implementing GS1 standards for asset identification.

The new Strategic Framework for NHS Commercial highlights just how significant accurate product identification and procurement efficiency is in supporting clinical outcomes and patient safety. The two go hand-in-hand to help improve patient care.


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