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Inventory management

Reduce your inventory levels, waste and out-of-stocks with GS1 standards

Inventory management

Building your inventory management system on GS1 standards enables total stock visibility and precise ordering. It reduces wastage, out-of-stock situations and delivers cost savings and improved patient safety too. Check out how NHS South of England Procurement Services have benefitted.

Many products provided by suppliers to the NHS already carry unique GS1 numbers (or Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) as they are called). All products need to comply with this requirement. These numbers are usually displayed in a barcode, but can also be used in electronic formats and even RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) too.

GS1 standards should be used to manage inventory in all locations around a Trust, from central stores to local stock rooms in wards and departments. Inventory can be linked directly to a patient too, using a patient wristband and electronic patient records.

Scanning the barcode as inventory is received, moved and used around a Trust enables key data to be captured electronically and exchanged without manual intervention into patient administration and purchase order processing systems.

The benefits

  • Reduced inventory held
  • Reduced out-of-stocks
  • Less product waste due to obsolescence
  • Better recall efficiency and effectiveness
  • Improved demand forecasting
  • Less staff required for managing inventory

What an efficient inventory management system looks like

  1. A plan for every product or service consumed within the Trust is in place. This plan should, as a minimum, categorise products into two core process areas:
    • Products that require tracking to patient (e.g. medicines and implantable devices)
    • Products that don’t require tracking to patient (e.g. general consumables)
  2. Systems and process technology to track products from receipt to patient using the GTIN, and including the batch and serial number of each item
  3. Auto-replenishing at least 99.5% of a Trust’s requisition lines utilising technology, with manual paper requisitions representing less than 0.5% of the total requisition lines
  4. The inventory management systems are capable of taking master data from the national Product Information Management system
  5. All inventory is recorded electronically (including ward/cabinet level)
  6. Consigned stock is recorded electronically and tracked to patients appropriately
  7. Overall inventory level is less than three weeks cover per item – as an average
  8. An appropriate and sustainable inventory management structure is in place

To sit alongside the NHS eProcurement strategy, the Department of Health is creating an inventory management strategy, which is likely to recommend the introduction of a single logistics function across the entire trust.

Help and support

If you have any questions, need some advice about implementing GS1 standards or want to find an accredited GS1 UK solution provider, we’re happy to help. Don’t forget to check out our case studies too. 

Contact us at or call 0808 172 8390.

CPE portal

The NHS Centre for Procurement Efficiency site