A combination of inventory technology and rigorous data management could offer various benefits to the UK’s healthcare services. ELCOM’s recent webinar on the 1st of February provided a unique opportunity for industry experts to discuss these innovations and how they can address the sector’s significant challenges.

Their unique insights are a blueprint for the future of the NHS and UK healthcare in general, allowing procurement teams to implement these advances and improve their medical practice in the process. If you were unable to attend the webinar, this article provides a clear summary of the main speakers and their overall findings.

Watch the entire webinar on-demand here.

About the webinar

Chris Norman, ELCOM VP of Healthcare and host of this webinar, began by discussing ELCOM and its success as a technology consultant – including the firm’s current partnership with the Scottish government. He also spoke about Scan4Safety, a system for improving healthcare efficiency that was successfully trialled at six NHS trusts.

Norman elaborated upon the key steps to implementing an innovative healthcare solution and emphasised the importance of offering a high-quality product at the correct time. Further steps included using accurate data to foreground the product, implementing it smoothly, and giving substantial support to clients afterwards.

Related reading: Enhancing patient safety and care with Scan4Safety

GS1 identification standards

Chris Florey, GS1 Engagement Manager for Healthcare, spoke on the importance of standardising data to make sure your practice and service stay consistent. GS1 established the Scan4Safety programme in 2016 as part of an NHS partnership; adding barcodes to items, locations, patients, staff, and equipment to reduce errors.

Florey discussed the success of this programme following its initial trial, including its ability to limit preventable errors by 76%. The trusts taking part in this trial were able to effectively eliminate Never Events (such as wrong site surgery) and incorrect drug dispensing by sharing data across systems to boost patient safety.

Related reading: Operational efficiencies in healthcare supply chains

SWLPP implementation

Daniel James, Director of Operational Procurement for the South West London Procurement Partnership, spoke about how they implemented Scan4Safety across 92 locations between 2021 and 2022. This helped them align their processes and coordinate their inventory system across five trusts, giving them a deeper knowledge of their supply chain.

James also discussed the future of SWLPP’s implementation, including the upcoming ‘Phase 2’. The partnership hopes to add more point-of-care areas and align its systems further by transforming their interfaces. This will give them the ability to implement data-driven decisions on a deeper level while increasing transparency.

Related reading: What is Scan4Safety and how can it improve supply chain management in healthcare?

Practical use of GS1 standards

Karan Joshi, the Scan4Safety and inventory management system lead for SWLPP, reiterated the importance of GS1 barcodes and how they help trusts know where every item or patient is. The SWLPP aims to integrate this with internal parcel tracking to ensure every item in the hospital reaches its destination.

Since implementing these barcodes, the target locations scan a total of 165,000 products per month, which the organisation intends to take even further. Each scan generates a pay-and-replace order – reducing the amount of manual intervention. SWLPP aims to increase this from 55% to 95%, freeing up more time for administrative matters.

Going beyond data standards

Francis Clifford, Head of Supply Chain for SWLPP, discussed the importance of continuous data maintenance in tandem with a successful implementation. There are still many manual interfaces that could result in avoidable errors – meaning the data needs constant attention and refinement to accommodate GS1 standards.

Clifford remarked upon the possibility of internal processes impeding GS1 implementation, such as equipment sterilisation necessitating the removal of barcodes. To ensure a cohesive, compatible relationship, SWLPP aims to produce cleaner workflows with uniform processes; bridging the gap between internal and external systems allows organisations to make the most of inventory management.

Closing the webinar

With these discussions complete, Chris Norman echoed the comments of the speakers and agreed that an IMS is ‘not an off-the-shelf fix’ – there is typically still a lot of work to do after implementation. He noted that many are resistant to change and noted the importance of educating staff about the benefits of these systems.

Norman closed the webinar by highlighting questions from attendees. One person asked about the importance of regulations to enforce GS1 standards – with Chris Florey stating regulations are upcoming. Another question related to data migration; Karan Joshi responded by emphasising the need to manually capture data.

Watch the entire webinar on-demand here.


  • Carolina Duran

    Carolina Duran, VP of Marketing at ELCOM, joined ELCOM in May 2016 to lead the company's marketing team and implement a robust and efficient strategy to secure brand positioning and growth in the UK and internationally. ELCOM is a global Supply Chain Technology Provider which praised itself for making procurement smarter, more connected, and transparent.

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