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Tracking surgical instruments

Using GS1 barcodes and RFID to identify and track surgical instruments

Surgical instrument traceability and management have been identified as an important area where significant benefits including improved patient safety can be gained from using barcodes or RFID for identification. The fear of cross-contamination between patients through surgical instruments (one example being variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) and the need to manage valuable assets have been stated as the main reasons for tracking single instruments.

NHS trusts mark trays and surgical instruments in a variety of different ways, employing a range of different systems including barcode supported systems. However, there is a clear increase in the use of barcode and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) supported systems to track and trace surgical instruments. GS1 compliance is now a requirement for contracts for super centres.

The guidelines here provide guidance to hospitals, third party decontamination services and providers of instrument marking and management systems. This guideline also provides technical guidance on how to implement GS1 standards for surgical instrument marking.

Read the surgical instrument traceability guidelines (PDF)

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If you need help adhering to these standards, please get in touch for expert support and advice.