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GS1 standards adoption in Procurement and Supply Chain

Date: February 15, 2018

Category: Industry news

Our first Procurement insight session brought together three of the leading figures in Procurement across the South of England to update us on progress being made in the use of GS1 standards in their supply chains.

  • Alan Hoskins, Director of Procurement & Commercial Services, South of England Procurement Services
  • Jackie Pomroy, Head of Supply Chain & eBusiness, South of England Procurement Services
  • Andy McMinn, Chief Procurement Officer, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

For Jackie Pomroy, this session was about sharing what’s happening at the moment and what others can learn from what she’s doing at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (Portsmouth). Like many Trusts, Portsmouth is challenged financially but that doesn’t stop them from focussing on what they need to do.

From a procurement point of view, the eProcurement strategy is central to that. At its simplest it’s the three core enablers:

Location coding – you need to know where all the places are where you’re moving stock around and where you’re buying things to be delivered to.

Catalogue management – having clean, accurate data about the products you’re buying, including your GTINs

Patient ID – being able to trace everything to the patient to get to patient-level costing

The three use cases that everybody talks about are also all relevant to procurement:

  • inventory management
  • purchase to pay systems
  • product recall

Combining the three core enablers with the three use cases means automating a lot of the old, manual systems that exist in most hospitals. For inventory, that means getting an inventory management system that can use GTINs and GLNs to track products all the way through the system. For purchase to pay, it’s about being able to order and invoice in a much better way, taking out all the manual processes and therefore all the queries. And for product recalls, we need to have the ability to track a product by its serial number and by its expiry date.

What are the benefits?

Automating these systems across our hospitals has the potential to put huge sums of money back on the books and save a lot of waste. At the moment we buy it, we waste it and then we pay to get rid of it. The eProcurement strategy is about getting full visibility of what’s going on. An example at Portsmouth was that they had a band 8a physiologist in cardiology managing pacemakers, amongst other things. They’ve now been able to release her time back to clinical care. Multiply this benefit across a whole hospital and the impact is massive.

Portsmouth gets an average of 25 deliveries a day, one of which will be 22 pallets. It’s a huge volume of stuff and their processes were very manual. There’s a proof of delivery sheet, that goes to the ward and someone had to sign for it. The team at the back door have to look through all sorts of different labels and delivery notes, trying to find the information that they need. And they’re not standard, there are lots of different versions. If we could standardise all of these, we could trust the information we have and have visibility of our supply chain end to end. Global Location Numbers (GLNs) will also help because you can know exactly where you’re delivering to.

It all sounds simple but without that barcode, without the right information in that barcode, it can’t happen. It’s about the right product, with the right barcode and the right information. It took Portsmouth about three years to their patient ID band into a GS1 compliant wristband and it involved a lot of different teams. It’s a big challenge.

Working with GS1

Just over a year ago, Portsmouth ran an audit with GS1 on the quality of GTINs in orthopaedics, cardiology and general theatres, scanning 1,600 items. They found that in cardiology there were really high quality GTINs, general theatres were much better than years before and in orthopaedics there’d been some improvement but still not quite where it needed to be. GS1 were able to analyse all this data and write to all the suppliers where they’d had identified problems. If the supplier’s unaware of the impact they’re having, they don’t have a chance of fixing it.

Portsmouth also looked at the recall process and from what Jackie could see in Procurement, it was a case of looking in the catalogue against the code and looking at all the POs. Also, a lot of the recall notices would go straight to the doctor or the department and not go via a central hub so it was a massive risk. As part of the GS1 Healthcare User group, a sub group was set up, chaired by the MHRA, including medical device suppliers and Trusts to look through and map out the process, and then re-map how it should look. So now there’s national guidance available, produced by GS1.

The four P’s

Fundamentally, it’s all about the four P’s – patient, product, place and processes. All of these apply in procurement. And you don’t need additional money to do this, this is all about growing and developing your service. This applies to Trusts and suppliers. If you’re wondering where to start, Jacky ended her part of the session with a few tips:

  • Get a GS1 lead, someone pushing passionately about getting all these things changed
  • Review your systems and your processes to know what’s going on and update them
  • Take a look at your maverick spend and why you’re spending it in the first place
  • Start using your inventory management systems to understand what’s going on out there, and then you can get to the patient outcomes

Supply chain data

The second part of this session was focussed on the data side of the hospital supply chain, led by Andy McMinn, Chief Procurement Officer at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust. At Plymouth, what they’re ultimately trying to achieve is that scanning takes place at the point of care, whether that’s a theatre or ward. And that if they can get all these systems capturing GS1 standards, they’ll have a data warehouse which they can interrogate to find out everything that happened to a particular patient from the minute they arrive in and their journey through the hospital.

For Andy, it’s the local catalogue that’s the problem today. Suppliers get Trusts ringing up for the latest spreadsheet and once they get it, it’s very quickly out of date. This catalogue is the foundation stone for inefficiency, because everything relies upon it being accurate. At Plymouth, they have their catalogue connected to the GDSN, making their updates are a lot better now. They now get GLNs and GTINs within their purchase order, their data is getting far cleaner and more accurate. They’re now able to use their inventory management system as the governance system for consultant preference cards and for Trusts - it’s all now live and hardwired to their catalogue so if it changes a product code, it pushes it to the preference card.

At Plymouth, they trade with just over 2,600 suppliers. 1,800 of those don’t have a catalogue. Only 66 suppliers have GTINs and that’s with two years of pestering them to get on board. Interestingly, those 66 work out as 29% of their catalogue and that 29% drives 46% of their trade. So for Trusts that feel quite overwhelmed by the prospect, actually if you just focus on your top spend suppliers then you can make good progress. And for those suppliers that are also plugged into the GDSN, it also means no more invoice queries.

What can Trusts be doing now?

A few suggestions from Andy that cost very little money and will make your life easier:

  1. Get a PEPPOL access point integrated within the business. It’s not straightforward but very soon there will be a lot of suppliers who are ready to take PEPPOL transactions.
  2. Put GLNs in your local catalogue and demand them of suppliers - all Trusts should be demanding GLNs and GTINs from suppliers. At Plymouth, if you’ve got GS1 compliance on your tender you will score higher. It could be the difference between winning business and not.
  3. With one supplier, Plymouth went end to end so they could get the machine to machine supplier to pay process and back from the supplier to them for data including POs, ASNs etc. If you get it right with one supplier, you can then start rolling it out with more of them.


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