Barcodes To Be Used To Improve NHS Waiting Times

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has made his first announcement since being named in the position and has vowed to spend £500m to improve the beleaguered NHS. He also highlighted the Scan4Safety programme, which encourages hospitals and other healthcare providers to implement simple barcodes on patients; samples; drugs; and other items, as one of the ways that technology can be used to advance NHS services.

Increased Spending

In June, Prime Minister, Theresa May, promised £20bn a year in additional funding for the beleaguered NHS. Critics have said that the money isn’t enough, following years of under-budgeting and poor funding for the health service. NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, has said that the NHS needs a 4% annual budget increase to meet an increase in demand for its services. Think tanks and medical professionals agree with this figure, to some extent. Spending is currently around £125bn a year. Debate is certain to continue over whether a £20bn increase is enough and whether the Conservative government is delivering on the pledge that there would be £350m a week made available following Brexit.

New Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has detailed how some of the budget increase will be spent, outlining plans to spend nearly £500m. In his speech, Hancock said that the computer system would need to be upgraded, and that he would also concentrate spending on workforce and illness prevention measures.

Computer System Improvements

The NHS has come under scrutiny for its handling of patient data, in recent years. Most recently, it was reported in July this year, that details of 150,000 patients who had specifically opted out of having their information shared, had had their information shared for clinical audits and research.

Hancock said that, of the budget increase highlighted by the PM, £75m would be spent on advancing and improving the existing technology.

Further measures include stopping the use of paper prescriptions and extending the Scan4Safety barcode system which has been trialled in several NHS hospitals.


Scan4Safety is a Department of Health initiative aimed to improve waiting times and the transfer of data. The system utilises barcodes. Barcodes are used to track patients during their journey within the NHS. They are also added to items ranging from drugs and prescriptions to items as specific as each individual screw within a replacement joint.

The Department of Health claims that Scan4Safety is the first of its kind in the world. They have said that it will improve security and prevent data breaches. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary at the time of the scheme launch, said that using “simple barcodes that major industries rely on every day will help to transform standards of care” and that it would free up “resources for care by reducing waste.”

Initially, the scheme was piloted in 6 NHS trusts, in Derby, Leeds, Salisbury, Cornwall, North Tees, and Plymouth. All six trusts said that the scheme was helping to reduce waste and enabling them to manage medical stocks and saving time for staff while improving patient care and transparency.

Barcodes And Barcode Implementation

Barcodes are a unique identifier consisting of 12 lines. Each line can have a different width, representing a number from 1 to 9 or 0. There are more than a trillion possible combinations of barcode making them unique enough for use in a variety of industries. Since 1974, when the first barcode was used on a pack of Wrigley’s gum, we have become accustomed to seeing barcodes on everyday items, but they are also used within the aerospace, manufacturing, and other industries.

One of the biggest benefits of the barcode is its ability to eliminate human error. Errors are rife during manual data entry, but a barcode scan is fast and efficient. Not only do barcodes eliminate errors, though, but they are also faster and versatile. Suppliers and manufacturers can take better control of their inventory and stock management, and the unique identifiers are inexpensive and easy to use.

From a healthcare point of view, they can be used to provide extensive history of any person, product, or other item. Every patient is given their own barcode, which is applied to records and printed on their identification bracelet when entering hospital. By scanning the barcode, the hospital can access all medical information, including a full medical history, instantly.

Barcodes can also be added to prescriptions, drugs, hospital beds and other equipment, and to surgical items like replacement knees. Blood and other samples can also be given their own barcode, and records can be updated to indicate where the sample can be found, where it is in the testing and processing stage, and other pertinent information.

Label Line UK Barcode Printing Equipment

To utilise barcodes, you need barcode software, a barcode printer, and scanners for end users.

Barcode software is the software that is used to create unique barcodes. It is vital that every barcode you use is unique, and that a barcode is assigned accurately to each product. There are online barcode generators that can be used but if you have a lot of products then you should consider implementing your own barcode software. At Label Line, we specialise in the provision and installation of BarTender software, but we can also offer installation of packages from other software vendors.

We also supply coding machines. These apply barcodes to packaging and products, and we offer a variety of standalone machines, as well as those that can be integrated into your production line equipment. Coding machines can also apply labels that include batch information, supplier information, and product details. We can tailor our products and services to accurately match your label printing requirements.

If you are using barcodes on your own products, whether they are healthcare or industry related, you will also need scanners to quickly and accurately scan data. From handheld PDAs to flatbed scanners, similar to those seen in supermarkets, we can supply and install the scanning equipment your business needs.

Label Line has extensive experience in supplying and installing high quality and reliable barcode hardware and software. We can work with legacy systems or help to design brand new barcode printing and labelling systems. We can install the software you need in order to assign, print, and scan the barcodes. Call us today on 0151 546 2222 or email [email protected] for more information on the products and services that can help transform your business.