Pioneering the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to centralise and streamline the management of theatre supplies, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH) has optimised stock holding, minimised waste and enabled theatre nurses to focus more time on patient care.

At Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Harland Simon’s RFiD Discovery Inventory system tracks items used in operations with passive RFID labels and interfaces with CUH’s inventory database. Automatically feeding usage data back into the inventory database ensures accurate inventory recording and reliable replenishment. Supply Chain Manager, Phillip Lapish explains:

“This system enables us to accurately capture the cost of each operation and at the same time allows clinical staff to focus on patient care delivery.”

The Trust is believed to be the first in the UK to introduce a central theatre kitting service using RFID technology, and now prepares around 100 to 120 kits per day for elective procedures plus 50 for emergency and contingency kits. Centralised stock holding eliminates the need for each theatre area to hold stock of each item which may be required. Phil explains:

“A stock take earlier this year showed that stock holding in Neurosurgery and the Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre has considerably reduced.”

All equipment that theatre staff require for a procedure is collated in a patient specific tote box, which contains an RFID tag to allow its unique identification. Each item is barcode scanned during picking using an RFID Discovery handheld scanner gun which receives a full list of items that have been issued for the particular kit. To speed up the process of picking, the gun displays the exact shelf location for each item.

This process is carried out by a central kitting team, which means that theatre nurses do not leave the theatre areas to collate materials and spend more time looking after patients.

Once complete, each box is sealed with a security tag. To improve patient safety and ensure that all the correct items are to hand during the operation, the system automatically prevents the completion of the tote until all items required have been picked and scanned.

To reduce waste, kits only include the items that are normally needed during an operation. This avoids clinical staff opening packaging and getting additional just-in-case items ready, which are subsequently wasted. Phil Lapish comments:

“The cost per operation is down by between 2.5 and 7.4% in the specialties where the solution was first deployed.”

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