Building the foundations of a digital strategy: How the NHS are saving thousands of lives and millions of pounds

In April 2019 over 300 delegates came together to discuss innovative ways of using GS1 barcode standards at the GS1 UK Healthcare Conference. Speakers included representatives from the six NHS Demonstrator Sites that have implemented the successful ‘Scan4Safety’ programme across the UK.

“Digital has changed every other industry and it has the potential to dramatically and fundamentally change the way we deliver healthcare,” said Lord David Prior, Chair of NHS England.

The resounding message from the conference was the recognition of the far-reaching benefits which have been realised within NHS England from ‘A simple scan’: Removing paper-based systems and processes and using GS1 standard barcode technology to cross check and capture patient data reduces; the risk of medical error, the time to carry out administrative tasks; and returns time to front line staff to concentrate on patient care.

In 2017/2018, 468 ‘Never Events’ were reported to the Care Quality Commission in the UK, including 203 wrong site surgery incidents, 35 medical administration errors and 64 wrong prothesis implants. These events can be eliminated by designing risk out of systems using identification technologies and patient scanning, ensuring the wrong treatment, implant, or device simply won’t fit – supporting the five patient rights; right patient, right drug or device, right time, right dose, and, right route, said Professor Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of Hospitals of the Care Quality Commission.

While protecting patients from potential medical errors is central to the need for identifying and capturing medical data electronically, NHS England have realised considerable operational efficiencies and waste reductions through the implementation of Scan4Safety. For example Royal Derby Hospital, a Scan4Safety Demonstrator Site, reduced the time taken to carry out vital signs monitoring from 5m 11 sec to 3m 22 sec by using barcode scanning to identify patients. If this was replicated across the whole NHS this would equate to 6,000 extra nurses per day.

A further success of the Scan4Safety programme can be seen in the tracking of assets to locations. Andy Barrow, Head of Medical Engineering at East Kent University NHS Foundation Trust, described how prior to the introduction of asset tracking, infusion pumps costing €1,800 each were regularly in short supply and staff were frequently requisitioning more pumps. The device management data provided by the new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking system, showed that across the three sites there was an excess of 98 pumps worth over €170,000.

The big news at the conference was that NHS Digital had recently agreed a new five-year membership contract with GS1 UK, and, are heavily engaged with the implementation of the Scan4Safety programme. This is a strong message to healthcare suppliers in the UK, where GS1 standards have also been mandated in order to supply products to the NHS.

At the conference closing, Glen Hodgson, Head of Healthcare GS1 UK, reminded the delegates of the recent statement from Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care: “I want to see this (Scan4Safety) taken up by the entire acute sector. We can have the most advanced tech, but we won’t see the real benefits unless we have real interoperability. So, staff have to make scanning a routine part of their working day.”

GS1 licences the most widely used system of supply chain standards, serving more than 2 million public and private sector organisations worldwide.

For more information, please contact:
Siobhain Duggan, Director of Innovation and Healthcare, GS1 Ireland
T: 01 208 0660







Barry Doyle

Since graduating with an MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in 1994 Barry has worked as a GIS / IT professional and business consultant in various roles in both the public and private sector in Ireland. With over 13 years’ experience working as a Project Leader in the Irish Local Government Sector Barry has been responsible for leading and delivering various innovative projects at both a Local Authority and Sectoral level with a particular focus on Digital Transformation, Geographical Information Systems, Information Management and Open Data.

Prior to joining Galway County Council in November 2018 Barry championed, defined and led the Digital Transformation Programme in Roscommon Country Council with the overall aim of embracing opportunities presented by ongoing advances in the digital technologies, broadband availability and capacity, and Cloud based enterprise solutions to transform how the Council provides services to, and interacts with, the citizens it serves. In line with this Barry completed a Special Certificate in Designing Innovative Services with Cork Institute of Technology in 2018.


Gemma Garvan

Gemma Garvan is Director of Informatics at St James’s Hospital in Dublin which last year became the first digital acute hospital in Ireland, which is the start of a landmark change for how care is delivered.  Gemma is an experienced Health Informatics Leader with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital and health care industry.  Prior to taking up her role at St James’s Hospital in 2018 she was Head of Access to Information at Healthlink. Gemma began work as an analyst programmer with The National Healthlink Project and moved into a project management role over a decade ago. Gemma has a BSc in computer science and software engineering and an MA from Trinity College in Dublin.

Barry Lowry

Barry Lowry is CIO for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, a position he was appointed to in 2016. He is tasked with delivering the Public Service ICT Strategy. Prior to 2016, he spent almost 35 years in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) on work ranging from the programming of mainframe computers to operating as a team leader in the design of client server systems. For the five years prior to his appointment, Lowry was the director who oversaw the establishment of ICT shared services in NICS. He also operated as the Head of Profession for ICT. In 2011 he was voted the Northern Ireland IT Professional of the Year by his associates.

Aileen McHugh
Kieran O’Hea

A native of Cork, Kieran O’Hea is Leicester City Council’s Head of Smart Cities, where he is leading the implementation of a Smart City Strategy that is city-needs led and demand-driven. He was formerly Chief Digital Officer of Brisbane, where he led the development of the city’s digital economy strategy. Before focusing on city strategies, Kieran led the development of digital strategies for a number of government agencies in Dublin. He has also worked for the European Commission, developing funding programmes in the area of digital content.

Donal Spellman


Tim Willoughby

Tim Willoughby is Head of Digital Services and Innovation at An Garda Síochána. He was formerly CTO of the LGMA, with over 20 years in a number of Senior Management and Technical Roles in the Local Government Sector. He has been working in the Public service for almost 28 years. Tim has a Civil Engineering Degree from TCD and a Masters in Innovation from the University of Ulster.

Moyagh Murdock

Moyagh Murdock has been in the transport sector for over 20 years in various capacities. Currently, Moyagh is the Chief Executive Officer at the Road Safety Authority. In her early career she spent 10 years in the airline industry having worked at Bombardier in Belfast as an aircraft systems engineer. She was then Chief Operating Officer for Bus Éireann having joined the Company in 2007 as the Deputy Chief Mechanical Engineer with responsibility for the fleet maintenance and garage operations. In 2012 she was awarded an MBA from Dublin City University (DCU) and holds a Certificate of Professional Competence in Road Transport Operations Management.

Caron Alexander

Caron Alexander is Director of Digital Shared Services at the Northern Ireland Civil Service.  She has more than 30 years of experience in the UK public sector.  Caron is responsible for providing ICT shared services to 27,000 staff, for the NI citizen portal and contact centre services, delivering the NI Digital Transformation Programme and driving forward the NI Open Data agenda.  Previously Caron held a number of senior technical, programme and change management roles in the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

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Michael Redmond
Michael Redmond is Chief Operating Officer at the Office of the CIO/eHealthIreland. A highly experienced leader within eHealth and Digital, Michael has a reputation for delivering results, driving excellence and building capability in each and every one of his career roles to date. Hugely experienced across the public sector, he is known to be acutely customer focussed; his strategy of simplifying the digital agenda resonates with the C-suite, staff and the general public alike. As COO, Michael manages the largest ICT investment budget in the whole public sector. Also a qualified and certified CIO, Michael studied Computer Science at Trinity College Dublin.
In 2008, Stella founded Annertech, Ireland’s leading open-source digital agency. Since its inception, Annertech have grown to become the "go to" Drupal experts in Ireland and work with a variety of clients in both the private and public sectors. Stella is an active contributor to the Drupal open-source content management system, and maintains many modules including Commerce Realex, Commerce Donate and Code Review. She is a member of the international Drupal Security Team, and was recently chairperson of the Drupal Ireland Association.

Dominic Byrne is Head of Information Technology with Fingal County Council and has 26 years’ experience working in IT.  He holds a Degree in Information Technology and a Masters in Internet Systems.  He is responsible for managing the provision of IT services in Fingal County Council and his current interests include Digital Government, Smart Cities and Civic Tech.  He is a member of the Smart Dublin Executive Committee and the Public Bodies Working Group on Open Data.