Barcodes stamped on breast implants and medical equipment

Avoidable harm prevention for things like 'surgery on the wrong part of the body'

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The NHS is stamping barcodes on breast implants, replacement hips and surgical tools in a bid to improve patient safety.

The technology is intended to eliminate avoidable harm in hospitals, including errors such as patients being administered the wrong drugs and surgery being performed on the wrong part of the body, said the Department of Health.

It is hoped to avoid future scandals such as the faulty Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP) silicone breast implants scare in 2010, in which fraudulently manufactured silicone gel implants affected 50,000 British women.

By using barcodes, anything that might develop a fault years later, for example a screw used in a knee operation or breast implant, can be traced, said the Department of Health in a press release.

The department recently created a national silicone breast implant database to ensure faulty products can be traced in the event of a product recall.

Six NHS hospitals have taken part in pilots of the £12m Scan4Safety scheme: in Derby, Leeds, Salisbury, Cornwall, North Tees and Plymouth.

It also also expected to provide a more effective means of managing medical stocks and saving staff time searching for items.

The government claims the project could save £1bn across the NHS over seven years.

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt said the scheme will help make the NHS "the safest and most transparent healthcare system in the world."

Tim Wells, consultant cardiologist at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Knowledge is power - not only does this provide us with a level of data and insight that can be used to better challenge clinical practice and variation, helping us to reduce inefficiencies and improve patient experience and outcomes - more importantly it ultimately helps to safeguard our patients from avoidable harm.

"In the event of a product recall, we can now easily and quickly track an affected product to the right patient." ®


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