If you are a medical or in-vitro device supplier, to be compliant with the NHS’ e-procurement strategy, you will need to have made a commitment to PEPPOL and associated GS1 requirements by September 2016.
Mandated by the Department of Health (DH) as part of its strategy for greater efficiency in e-procurement, GS1 and PEPPOL protocols will deliver the standardisation that will produce numerous benefits for NHS acute trusts and their suppliers.
GS1 is the international coding standard relating to barcodes and product and item identifiers. In the UK, the standard is overseen by the not-for profit organisation, GS1 UK. Look through the shelves of stock rooms and you are likely to notice that many items will have barcodes. Where there are barcodes, suppliers and hospitals often use different coding standards. As you might expect, this creates a consistency and accuracy headache and makes it difficult to identify and communicate information easily across supply chains.
When all parties within an NHS trust supply chain use GS1 barcodes – as they will be required to do – every location, product, medicine and even patient will have a unique identifying code that adheres to GS1 standards. This commonality will allow data to be captured, recognised and utilised efficiently across the supply chain, making management much easier for all stakeholders.
GS1 coding includes GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers), GLNs (Global Location Numbers). In short, a GTIN defines a product and a GLN defines a location.
GTINs identify products and services that a supplier provides to a trust. Allocated to each product, GTINs can be encoded in barcodes or RFID tags. Scanning the barcodes enables automated exchange into patient administration systems and goods receipt systems, without rekeying and the associated risk of manual error.
GLNs identify the supplier or trust or any other location within a trust, giving further clarity to the traceability trail.
Ultimately, with GS1, frontline clinical benefits should include fewer medication errors, a reduced risk of wrong-site surgery and more accurate tracking and tracing of surgical instruments, equipment and devices.
However, it is in procurement where PEPPOL joins GS1 in boosting efficiency and cost reductions across a trust, whether in estates and facilities or ward stock management. Purchase orders, invoices and advanced shipping notices will all be issued in a standardised PEPPOL electronic format via a PEPPOL-compliant access point. There will be fewer queries and supplier disputes, thanks to accurate and timely order, delivery and invoice information, which will result in reduced transaction costs. Visibility of products throughout supply chain is also enhanced, reducing wastage, lowering recall costs and enabling compliance with European legislation on anti-counterfeiting and traceability.
Together, GS1 and PEPPOL standards allow the automated matching of order, invoice and delivery notification. This three-way match speeds up subsequent payment and shortens supply lead times, which, in turn, reduces stockholding. This is especially important when considering high value medical devices and equipment.
These are the carrots; the stick is the DH stipulation: failure to make a commitment or join a PEPPOL access point by September 2016 will put you in a position non-compliance if you are a medical or in-vitro device supplier. The first step to compliance is choosing your PEPPOL access point.