How a new system has helped NHS Trusts achieve cost savings, freeing medical staff to focus on patient care.
A large hospital may be juggling as many SKUs as a hypermarket, but without access to the inventory management systems common in retail. Inefficient management of medical supplies – as highlighted in the Carter Report of 2016 – leads to cancellations and delays. However, a barcode-scanning technology designed specifically for the NHS, and now in use at 28 Trusts, has begun to make improvements.
At Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH), there used to be little insight into the value of stock held for orthopaedic procedures such as hip replacements, and no way of measuring variations in costs between surgeons’ procedures.
Sonia Simpson, e-procurement manager at DBTH, says: “Before we started using the Genesis system, our best understanding of stock levels for both equipment and consumables was an estimate. This meant we sometimes over-ordered items and risked not having others in stock when needed.”
The Trust also previously had no way of knowing which patient had received which product, explains Simpson. “This meant if we had a product recall, we wouldn’t be able to pinpoint who to contact.”
However, the implementation of a barcode system, which uses a hand-held scanning device, allows staff to compare the costs of procedures between doctors and hospitals, recall patients who receive substandard implants, and also helps to guard against so-called ‘never-events’ such as a left knee inserted into a right leg, or a scalpel left inside a patient. Barcodes are attached to all equipment and supplies, from orthopaedic implants to swabs, scalpels and linen. Patients are given a unique wristband when they enter hospital, as well as one to record the supplies used.
The technology, from Cork-based Genesis Automation, has replaced the manual stock re-ordering process with an auto-replenish system that maintains an updated view of stock held on shelf.
“The user would be primarily a theatre nurse,” says Paul Jackson, general manager, Genesis Automation. “They scan the operating room, staff, patient and products. And that way we’ve got track and traceability for what’s being used, so the Trust then gets full visibility of patient-level costings.”
Genesis now covers all orders, so procurement no longer has to raise separate orders for non-stock items. The authorisation of orders is now pre-agreed, so no orders sit waiting to be approved and released, while slow and non-moving stock is now identified.
So far, inventory reviews completed at DBTH using Genesis data have reduced stock levels on average between 12%-25% for wards and departments.
As part of the set-up process at DBTH, more than 48,000 procurement-vetted items were added to the hospital’s master database. The cloud-stored system, accessible to Trust staff, has also decreased the Trust’s need to rely on orthopaedic loan kits, leading to a £700,000 reduced spend within orthopaedic theatres.
In the long term, Simpson says the technology will help NHS Trusts to understand variations in cost and standardise the way they work in operating theatres, also allowing hospitals to optimise theatre schedules.
Genesis worked with Plymouth NHS Trust to design its barcode track and trace supply management software. It formed a key building block of the Government’s Scan4Safety programme, to test the potential of barcode scanning inventory management software on a bigger scale in six NHS pilot sites from 2017 to 2019.
Genesis technology was used at three of these sites and demonstrated potential savings of £1bn over seven years, while time freed up would equate to 2,400 extra nurses for the NHS. The Scan4Safety pilot test has now been rolled into the DoHSC’s technology arm NHSX.
Genesis Automation is now being implemented independently in 28 NHS Trusts to help manage stock, with more than 100 new hospitals scheduled to implement the technology during 2020, according to Jackson. And because Genesis is a proprietary technology, it can be scaled up or down and tailored to meet the needs of specific NHS Trusts and hospitals.