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Bar-Code Project


Success for NHS number bar-coded labels

January 2013

Bar-coded NHS numbers are being added to newborn blood spot screening cards to improve the traceability of samples. This is intended to reduce the risk of any sample being missed and a child not being promptly diagnosed with a serious but treatable condition.

The bar-code labels have been implemented in 191 out of 240 (79%) maternity units across England. 140 sites (58%) fully comply with the Output Based Specification (OBS) guidelines and have 'Passed'. 51 sites (21%) have minor layout changes to make when they have their next software upgrade and are 'Pending'. 14 sites (6%) have been classified as 'Fail' and have been requested to remedy and submit another label. 30 sites (13%) are 'Awaiting' a software upgrade/build and therefore cannot produce labels at this time which comply with the OBS guidelines. 5 sites (2%) have yet to submit a label and have been classified as 'Outstanding'.

The bar-coded NHS number label utilises the uniqueness of the NHS number as an identifier for the baby to enable secure tracking through the screening pathway. The label is produced following notification of birth when the baby's NHS number is allocated. A printed label bearing eye-readable demographics is generated from the Birth Notification Dataset that is combined with the eye-readable and bar-coded NHS number. The health professional taking the blood sample (usually on day 5 after birth) must check with the parent that all fields of the label and blood spot card are correct and make any changes necessary. The label is then attached to each sheet of the card at the time of taking the sample. The label has the dual benefit of preventing transcribing errors whether by health professionals taking the sample, or laboratory staff reading and entering the NHS number. The label also allows acceleration of accurate data-entry into laboratory information systems.

Success has resulted from many factors demonstrating the ability of varied agencies within and outwith the NHS to work together to achieve a common goal:

  • cooperation from system suppliers in making the functionality available in the correct format
  • huge efforts by individual maternity units and trusts and the regional screening teams
  • coordination by the UK Newborn Screening Programme Centre

The Programme Centre continues to verify labels from maternity units across England as part of the implementation process.

Labels which need to be verified are to have all patient identifiable material "blacked" out. Please send to the following address:

NHS Newborn Blood Spot Screening Programme
Public Health England
344-354 Gray's Inn Road


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