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Richard Peacock, ICT Programme Manager, Technology Centre, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust


University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW) is one of the UK’s largest NHS Trusts, managing two major hospitals that care for over one million people. The Trust was first established in 1992 and now employs over 9,500 staff. Every year, they provide more than 800,000 episodes of care to patients. The Trust’s vision is to be a national and international leader in healthcare. Its focus is on providing and improving quality of care, while embracing innovation to provide leading-edge clinical services.

What was the problem?

As a regional major trauma centre and tertiary centre for cancer and neurosurgery, the Trust is a very high user of blood products for transfusions. The Trust implemented a blood tracking system to comply with two EU Directives (2002/98/EC and 2004/33/EC) that were transposed into UK law through the Blood Safety and Quality Regulations 2005 Act. The blood tracking system was first introduced in 2006 and was followed by a further upgrade in 2012, which included the use of patient wristbands.

In 2014 the Department of Health announced its eProcurement Strategy and a requirement of this was to adopt GS1 barcoding on the patient wristband complying with ISB 1077 Patient Identification standard, while also complying with existing EU regulations. At this time, the Trust found that its existing blood tracking system was not compliant with the ISB 1077 standard.

How was the problem solved?

The Trust decided to upgrade its blood tracking system with additional functionality ensuring compliance with the ISB 1077 regulations. This meant implementing the use of 2D barcodes on patient wristbands allowing for greater positive patient identification.

How were GS1 standards used to help deliver the solution?

The ISB 1077 standard defines how to encode the NHS approved patient identifiers for wristbands into a two dimensional barcode: the GS1 DataMatrix. This standard covers production, verification and printing rules for the barcode.

UHCW worked together with Rivendale, who provide a solution called PrintAnywhere; a GS1 certified product for printing patient wristbands and other documents. It assists systems that cannot properly handle laser and inkjet printers in producing high quality documents with NHS approved barcodes.

What are the benefits?

Since the implementation of the blood tracking system, blood wastage has been reduced to 4.1% and blood stock management has been enhanced. The implementation of the GS1 DataMatrix wristband ensures positive patient identification throughout the transfusion process, which is essential to the provision of safe and effective care to patients.

Additionally, the use of GS1 DataMatrix wristband scanning will in the future allow one-nurse checking to be introduced.

Next steps

Encouraged by the success of the improved patient identification system, UHCW is expanding the identification solution to other areas of the organisation. The Path Collect system, an electronic system of labelling blood sample tubes, has already been piloted by a group of phlebotomists.

There are plans to scan the patient wristband to positively identify the patient for use by upgraded Electrocardiogram (ECG) machines. There is also a planned refresh of the patient observations monitoring equipment, which will make use of the barcode to positively identify the patient.

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