NHS Scan4Safety: A Comprehensive Overview of the Ground-Breaking Initiative

The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has always been at the forefront of healthcare innovation. Among these efforts is the revolutionary Scan4Safety program, designed to enhance patient care by increasing efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness in healthcare facilities. In this article, we provide an overview of the NHS Scan4Safety program, its benefits, and its impact on the healthcare sector.

What is NHS Scan4Safety?

NHS Scan4Safety is a pioneering initiative launched by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care. It focuses on the use of barcode technology and standardized processes to streamline healthcare operations and improve patient safety. By scanning unique barcodes assigned to patients, staff, medical products, and locations, the program enables more accurate tracking and management of resources throughout the entire healthcare journey.

The Six Core Principles of Scan4Safety:

Patient Identification: Ensuring accurate identification of patients using a unique barcode, based on the Global Service Relation Number (GSRN) identifiers which contains essential information such as the patient’s name, date of birth, and NHS number.

Healthcare Provider Identification: Assigning unique barcodes to healthcare professionals (Again GSRN but allowing patients and care staff to be identified) to track their involvement in patient care, improving accountability, and enhancing patient safety.

Product Identification: Labelling all medical consumables and surgical trays with a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) to enable accurate tracking and traceability, consumption-based reordering and accurate procedure costing.

Location Identification: Implementing unique Global Location Number (GLN) barcodes for all locations within healthcare facilities, which identifies where patient care episodes are provided and helps streamline asset management, equipment tracking, and maintenance scheduling.

Transaction Capture: Leveraging barcode technology to record and track all transactions related to patient care, including clinical procedures, medication administration, and supply management.

Process Standardization: Establishing standardized processes for data capture and management, ensuring consistency and accuracy across all healthcare facilities.

Benefits of NHS Scan4Safety:

The NHS Scan4Safety program offers numerous benefits to both healthcare providers and patients, including:

Improved Patient Safety: The accurate identification and connection between patients, staff, implanted medical devices and surgical trays provides track and trace audit trails, to enhance patient safety.

Increased Efficiency: By streamlining processes, the program reduces the time spent on manual data entry and tracking, allowing healthcare professionals to focus on delivering optimal patient care.

Enhanced Supply Chain Management: The accurate tracking and traceability of medical products and devices facilitate better inventory management, ensuring the availability of essential supplies when needed.

Cost Savings: The program helps identify inefficiencies in the supply chain, leading to reduced wastage and significant cost savings for the NHS.

Data-Driven Decision Making: The standardized capture and management of data enable better decision-making, facilitating continuous improvement in patient care and service delivery.

NHS Scan4Safety in Action:

The success of the NHS Scan4Safety program can be seen in the six NHS Trusts that served as early adopters of the initiative. These Trusts experienced impressive results, such as:

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust: “Scan4Safety provides us for the very first-time complete traceability of products such as implantable medical devices used with our patients… it ultimately helps to safeguard our patients from avoidable harm.” Tim Wells, Consultant Cardiologist, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: Cumulative benefits of £3,194,346 were realised by December 2018 thanks to Scan4Safety, which the trust introduced in April 2016.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust: Reduced the average time taken for product recalls from 8.33 days to less than 35 minutes following the introduction of Scan4Safety. The organisation estimates it will save £84,411.07 each year on such recalls.

Saving every NHS hospital up to £3 million a year: “The introduction of GS1 standards will allow every NHS hospital in England to save on average up to £3 million each year while improving patient care.” An independent report by Lord Carter of Coles

Benefit statements taken from The Scan4Safety evidence report


The NHS Scan4Safety program is a game-changing initiative that revolutionizes patient care in the UK. By leveraging barcode technology and standardized processes, it enhances efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness in healthcare facilities. As more NHS Trusts adopt this innovative approach, the program is expected to significantly improve patient outcomes, streamline supply chain management, and yield substantial cost savings. Ultimately, the success of the Scan4Safety program demonstrates the power of technology in transforming healthcare and reaffirms the NHS’s commitment to providing world-class patient care.