What impact have GS1 standards had across the NHS?

If you stand back and look at how digital technology has changed the banking industry, how it has changed the retail industry, how it’s changed every other industry, it is a phenomenal change. And we are just in the foothills in the NHS. Technology could drive dramatic and fundamental changes in the way we deliver healthcare.”

Those are the words of NHS England’s chair, Lord David Prior. The opportunities for the NHS are there. Using technology, we can transform processes and by harnessing data, we can do so much more.

With GS1 standards, we help the NHS save thousands of lives and millions of pounds. And we achieve that through the unique identification of every person, every product and every place.

Doing so enables us to support the NHS to improve patient safety, reduce unwarranted clinical variation and create a solid foundation for interoperability. As chief inspector of hospitals at Care Quality Commission, Professor Ted Baker, states, it is all about the five patient rights; right patient, right drug or device, right time, right dose, and right route.

Using GS1 standards and barcode scanning technologies, we are able to give staff access to real-time, accurate and trusted data, providing a single source of truth for vital information.

This not only empowers clinicians to make informed decisions regarding patient care, but also supports non-clinical teams allowing them to optimise the time taken to perform routine tasks.

We do this for healthcare – for every single stakeholder involved in the provision of exemplary patient care, from manufacturer to patient. Our new video provides a snapshot of just why this means so much.


Today, 12 years down the line in the healthcare sector and three years on from the initiation of the Scan4Safety programme, we have the evidence. Each achievement provides fitting testimony to the work we have been doing over the years and the impact GS1 standards adoption has had on trusts and their patients. For example:

  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust reduced overall prevented error rates in pharmacy dispensing by 76 per cent using GS1 standards and barcode scanning technologies
  • Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust decreased the time taken to carry out product recalls from 48 hours to less than two minutes through their inventory management improvement programme
  • Barking, Havering and Redbridge University NHS Trust were able to reduce the number of missing health records at clinic from <10 per cent to <3 per cent by using RFID tags and more than 65,000 Global Location Numbers, to track medical records around the hospital
  • University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust decreased blood wastage to 4.1 per cent by implementing a new blood-tracking system

These are the facts – the unmistakable evidence attained by the simple adoption of GS1 open standards within acute care. And what’s more, this merely scratches the surface.

It is with that in mind that I’d like to introduce our new healthcare case study portal.

We’ve pulled together success stories from several NHS trusts across England to showcase best practice and explore the scope of what is possible with open, standardised data at hand.

Each one delves into the challenges they faced, the solution, and the benefits realised as part of their implementation journey. Do take some time to visit our web portal to explore our library of real, evidence-based case studies of GS1 standards in action.

I’ll end with a final thought from Jackie Whittle, chief clinical information officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, speaking at the recent GS1 UK Healthcare Conference.

“I think one of the things that we’ve tried in Leeds is to look at the varying transformation projects we’re working on and link them in together. So, we don’t talk about Scan4Safety as a standalone project – scanning is embedded in how we’re developing our electronic health record and how we’re bringing technology to the bedside.”

There is nothing standard about healthcare, and that’s why our standards are anything but.

Our thanks go to Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Loaf Creative, without whom this project would not have been possible.

About the author


Glen Hodgson is Head of Healthcare at GS1 UK. He is charged with supporting the NHS and the healthcare industry to deliver greater efficiency and a more robust approach to patient safety.

With over 20 years of national and international experience, Glen has served at board level in a variety of operational and commercial roles within complex organisational structures inside the pharmaceutical/healthcare arena.

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Glen Hodgson


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