The Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care has approved a requirement for all trusts to issue patients with barcoded wristbands – but they have been given yet another year to comply.
The ISB has approved the automatic identification and data capture standard for patient identification, which has been in development for more than two years.
It gives trusts until the start of October 2013 to issue every patient with a wristband carrying a GS1 barcode.
Trusts must have a plan in place by next April to formalise how they will migrate from existing wristbands, some of which are still hand-written, to the barcoded variety.
Trusts will be required to issue wristbands with the patient's NHS Number, first and last name, and date of birth in both barcoded and human readable form.
Any trust looking to procure and deploy new identity band systems must demonstrate it will comply with the new standard, which also says that the barcodes must be accurately scanned in every case when they are scanned.
However, there is no requirement for trusts to use the barcodes as part of their everyday patient identification practices – meaning that they could simply have the barcode on the wristband without scanning it or using the technology to match patients with blood, drugs or other treatments.
The approved standard differs from the advance notice which the ISB published in August, which stated that trusts would be required to issue barcoded wristbands from October 2012.
Even the 2012 deadline was 15 months later than the original intention to have barcoded wristbands issued by July this year.
The push to improve wristbands in the NHS began in 2007 when the National Patient Safety Authority said it wanted wristbands produced in a standardised format.
In the same year the Department of Health also published ‘Coding for Success’, which outlined the potential safety benefits of barcoding wristbands.
The ISB subsequently issued its first advance notice of the standard to barcode wristbands in 2009, with plans for it to be approved in 2010, and then in operation across trusts this year.
However, the initial approval was put on hold because the development of the standard took longer than expected. It is unclear why the date to comply has been extended yet again.
Franck Riout from Zebra Technologies, which produces barcoding systems for NHS trusts, told eHealth Insider the use of barcoded wristbands had been proven to reduce administration errors by 42%; which ought to provide quality and efficiency standards for trusts to adopt it.
“Trusts themselves should be pushing for a consensus around barcoded wristband standards, rather than waiting to respond to future requirements from the ISB and DH," he said.
“The quicker all the bodies involved can come to an agreement and implement a unified strategy the fewer avoidable incidents will occur in our hospitals.”
© 2011 EHealth Media.
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