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Surgical instrument management

Using GS1 barcodes and RFID to identify and track surgical instruments

Using GS1 barcodes and RFID to identify and track surgical instruments

The fear of cross-contamination between patients through surgical instruments – for example, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – and the need to manage valuable assets drive the need to track single instruments.

Trusts mark trays and surgical instruments in a variety of different ways, employing a range of different systems. There’s a clear increase in the use of barcode and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) supported systems to track and trace surgical instruments.

By uniquely identifying individual surgical instruments and trays, using GS1 standards, they can be scanned and recorded each time they’re used on a patient or pass through the sterilisation process. GS1 compliance is now a requirement for contracts for super centres.

The benefits

  • More efficient management of surgical instruments
  • More efficient management of the sterilisation process
  • Better availability of instruments
  • Earlier identification of missing items

What efficient surgical instrument management looks like

  1. Each surgical instrument type is given a unique GS1 identifier, so products can be ordered and managed for effective stock control
  2. In addition, each individual item of surgical equipment is given a unique GS1 asset number and barcode (which can be directly part-marked via laser etching). Every instrument, and set of instruments, can then be centrally tracked through its entire lifecycle. This gives visibility over where and when an instrument was manufactured, stored, sterilised and who used it on which patient – true end-to-end traceability
  3. The cost of each surgical instrument, and associated sterilisation and decontamination costs, are accurately recorded and matched against each procedure – supporting true patient-level costing
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