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December 12, 2016
By: Sara Ford

The mandated Scan4Safety program is seldom mentioned in the same breath as the Paperless NHS. Yet, given its status as a major data standardisation and collection initiative, it should be seen as a logical part of the broader roll out of EMR capabilities. Electronic medical records are, after all, a primary lever being pulled in the effort to minimise paper in the NHS.

The Scan4Safety project is not “yet another program.” It is really a strategic initiative that enables and accelerates healthcare providers’ digital transformations. With a focus on traceability and a full audit trail, Scan4Safety is all about collecting and standardising electronic information in an effort to improve patient safety, clinical productivity and supply chain efficiency. With a Paperless NHS vision that has already been pushed back multiple times, and is now targeted at 2023, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep Scan4Safety in any kind of silo.


Whether it’s tracking the products that are implanted into patients, in case of product recalls, or scheduling the equipment and consumables required for life-saving surgery, Scan4Safety has the major added benefit of fundamentally improving patient safety. At the same time, it will reduce the amount of misplaced stock, or stock wasted due to product expiry.

In addition, linking it to organisation-wide IT and process transformation, as envisaged in the Sustainability and Transformation Plans being rolled out across the NHS, would create a co-ordinated transformation programme across organisations. It would also accelerate the journey towards a less paper-intensive healthcare system by enabling seamless sharing of records at both primary and secondary care levels.

Scan4Safety helps to address paper-rich and manual processes are common within the NHS, and instead offers innovative ways to overcome these challenges.

  • First, in terms of data format consistency, which is crucial. Currently, different Trusts record data in different ways and, even within Trusts, data on staff, products, drugs and locations are recorded in different formats. This makes it exceedingly difficult to share data or create meaningful reports. Standardising will allow for seamless reporting within and between Trusts—in every category.

  • Second, broad-based transformation to implement interoperable systems would allow seamless transfer of consistently formatted and electronic data between systems. This would reduce both the amount of manual labour required to transfer data, and the element of human error inherent in that process. With interoperable systems, the efficient appraisal of performance of different hospitals, and different departments within hospitals, becomes a far more practical consideration.

Scan4Safety provides the foundation for integrated electronic records through a standard dataset that can be shared across Acute hospitals and into the community—setting the standards for better patient care.

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