The Government's NHS mandate 2023 has named digital data transformation as a top priority
It states that all trusts across the UK should have implemented barcode scanning of their most high-risk medical devices by March 2024. Further to this, all data captured should be submitted to the Medical Device Outcome Registry, or MDOR, to track and improve patient outcomes when using high-risk medical devices.
Building on our extensive experience of working with healthcare providers on their digital transformation, this comprehensive guide delves into the recently announced NHS Mandate 2023 Priority 3 and is authored by our Healthcare Director. Within the government’s 2023 mandate to NHS England. Priority 3 is to deliver recovery through the use of data and technology and concerns itself, first and foremost, with “adopting the latest innovation and technology to digitally transform the NHS and help ensure its long-term sustainability.”
Beginning with what the NHS Mandate 2023 priority 3 really means, in simple terms, we'll then move on to explore the key objectives of the mandate and outline notable deadlines. Finally, this guide offers expert recommendations for how to implement technology seamlessly in order to meet government requirements.
Given the depth of the subject matter, there’s a lot of ground for us to cover. Use the links below to navigate to the section of the guide that interests you:
What is the NHS mandate 2023?
Each year the government publishes a new NHS Mandate that sets out the expectations and available budget for NHS England. It covers a wide range of topics including patient care, workforce planning and financial management. While the mandate is not a legally binding document, it is an important tool for holding NHS England to account throughout the year.
The new NHS Mandate 2023 was published in June after being presented to parliament and outlines three key priorities for 2023 - 2024;
- Cut NHS waiting lists and recover performance
- Support the workforce through training, retention and modernising the way staff work
- Deliver recovery through the use of data and technology
The mandate concludes with a statement of commitment from the government. This includes a promise to provide the NHS with the resources that it needs to deliver the highest-quality care to patients. The British government pledges to invest an additional £3.3bn every year from 2023 to 2025 to support NHS England in improving emergency, elective and primary care performance back to pre-pandemic levels. In addition to this, the government will publish a delivery plan for recovering access to primary care, expanding pharmacy service, tackling the 8am rush for appointments and making it easier and quicker for patients to get the help they need from primary care. Finally, investing in new technology and innovation to improve the quality and efficiency of care.
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Priority 3: delivering recovery through the use of data and technology
As discussed already, Priority 3 of the NHS Mandate 2023 is to ‘deliver recovery through the use of data and technology’, with deadlines set for as early as March 2024. In particular, there is a strong focus on fully integrating RFID and barcode scanning technology into the NHS. Not only can it help to improve the quality, efficiency and outcomes of patient care, but it will also play a critical role in future-proofing the healthcare system. Let’s explore how.
Barcode scanners help to reduce bad outcomes
In a healthcare environment, even minor failures in traceability, identification and accuracy can harm patients. Barcode technology in the NHS is currently being used to improve patient outcomes, and RFID is being used to support and improve patient flow. There is still more work to be done, though. Continuous investment in digital transformation will ensure that every step of the patient journey from appointments to discharge and even tracking medication and equipment is optimal. This can help to reduce errors in care, but will also save money, too. As part of Priority 3, all trusts are expected to have their high-risk equipment (life support equipment and any other device for which there is a risk of serious injury or death to a patient or member of staff should it fail) tagged with barcodes and to be submitted to the national, mandatory Medical Device Outcome Registry (MDOR).
Electronic health records can improve communication between healthcare providers
Electronic health records (EHRs) are digital versions of a patient’s traditional paper chart. Unlike paper charts, EHRs are updated in real-time and are available instantly to authorised personnel. They can improve communication between healthcare providers as they contain everything from medical histories to treatment plans and test results allowing better tracking of patient progress and equipping healthcare providers with better information to make decisions about a patient's care. Plus, they hugely reduce the amount of paper-based admin required by our already stretched workforce. When combined with the device data collected from the barcode scanners, the EHRs can be used to improve patient safety and outcomes in procedures that use high-risk medical devices.
These are just two examples of how data and technology can be used to improve the NHS, without even touching on the app and how it makes it easier for patients to access care. As the digital transformation continues, we can expect to see even further benefits emerge.
Milestones in the government's 2023 mandate to NHS England
In order to monitor progress against the key objectives of cutting waiting lists and recovering performance as well as enhancing the service’s use of technology and its workforce, a number of key milestones have been set:
- MARCH 2024: All trusts should adopt barcode scanning of high-risk medical devices and submission to the national, mandatory Medical Device Outcome Registry (MDOR)
The 2024 deadline set by the mandate is a clear signal of the critical role that barcode scanning can, and will, play in levelling up the NHS’s digital maturity and infrastructure.
- By December 2023, 90% of all NHS trusts and foundation trusts should have electronic health records
This date is crucial as the data collected from the scanning of high-risk medical devices need to be submitted to the MDOR “either directly, or via a supporting electronic health record (EHR) or inventory management system that can support registry data submission.”
- By March 2024, 80% of CQC registered adult social care providers have digital social care records in place by March 2024
This is an ambitious, but achievable, target that’s been set for social care providers by the government as part of the mandate. By encouraging an uptake and shift to digital social care records, this will enable care workers to improve the quality of care and break down the barriers between different parts of the health and care system, making it easier to share information and coordinate care.
- By March 2024 75% per cent of all adults in England to be registered on the NHS App
By encouraging an increase in the number of users of the NHS app, the objective is to improve the process for booking and managing appointments, repeat prescriptions, accessing patient records and access to digital health therapeutics. As with the other milestones, this helps healthcare providers to build a more holistic picture of a patients’ history and treatment to improve outcomes.
Each objective is supported by the adoption of barcode scanning which, in turn, supports the digital transformation of the NHS as well as improving efficiency and patient safety.
How to implement barcode technology in the NHS
Barcode technology offers a vast array of benefits for the healthcare system. From improved patient safety to enhanced traceability and increased efficiency, there’s not a single element of the patient journey that barcode technology cannot help to enhance.
In 2016, the Department of Health awarded funds to six hospitals known as Scan4Safety demonstrator sites, specifically to investigate how consistent use of scanning at the point of care might improve efficiency and safety within the NHS.
By scanning globally unique barcodes that are present on patient wristbands, implantable medical devices, locations and sometimes staff badges, you create end-to-end traceability and consistent processes throughout the entire patient pathway.
In a healthcare environment, even minor failures in traceability, identification and accuracy can harm patients, as found in the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, also known as the Cumberledge review. The importance of traceability and the ability to react quickly when the risk to patients is high is critical. Continuous investment in digital transformation will ensure that every workflow throughout the patient journey, from appointments to discharge to tracking medication and equipment, is working optimally. This will help to reduce errors in care, reduce the risk of never events, release clinical time, and help to save money.
In addition to this, barcode technology also supports deep integration between individual healthcare systems. It facilitates the relationship between EHRs, pharmacy systems and other pivotal components of the healthcare IT infrastructure. This exchange of data enhances care coordination on every level and promotes accurate and secure sharing of critical patient information. The mandate states that by December 2023, 90% of all NHS trusts and foundation trusts should have electronic health records.
Beyond patient care, emerging digital scanning technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID) is supporting initiatives around managing patient and hospital flow including infection control, live bed status, sterile services and medical record tracking, and community medical device tracking. Interactive dashboard insights provide clinicians and staff with real-time visibility into the location and status of assets and supplies to improve patient safety and experience.
By embracing barcode technology, NHS England and healthcare providers across the UK can unlock a multitude of benefits including increased patient safety, streamlined workflows, reduced errors and ultimately better patient outcomes.
Tips for implementing barcode technology in healthcare settings
As with any new initiative, it’s always tempting to throw everything you have at it. Based on our extensive experience, here are our top tips for implementing barcode technology in healthcare settings.
- Start small. Don’t try to implement barcode technology across the entire organisation all at once. Start with a small pilot project and then scale up from there. For example, why not apply barcodes to some of your most valuable, frequently used, or in high-demand equipment to reduce your frontline workers wasting time hunting for it when trying to deliver treatment.
- Get buy-in from stakeholders. It’s vitally important to get buy-in from your key stakeholders such as clinical staff, IT staff and managers. Taking the time to understand their day-to-day pain points, and implementing solutions that help ease these, rather than add to their workload, will not only ensure that implementation is successful but also ensure that you have support right where you need it.
- Be patient. Implementing barcode technology takes time so you should not expect to see results overnight. Be sure to schedule frequent retrospectives with your stakeholders and teams that are using the technology and tweak and adjust your strategy where needed to continuously deliver improvements.
Verify patient identities and medication details
Track inventory levels and automate the replenishment process
Rapidly locate key equipment
Enhance care coordination and promote accurate and secure sharing of critical patient information
Now, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, from an overview of what the 2023 NHS Mandate is, to its key priorities and coverage on the benefits and ways to implement barcode technology.
We hope that it’s provided a good introduction to the topic, but there’s plenty more to learn. You can download our comprehensive white paper on how to implement barcode technology in your NHS Trust here, or if you’re ready to take the next step and discuss how we can work with you on your digital transformation journey, why not book a free, no obligation consultation call with one of our experts today?