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UDI in the NHS: what suppliers should know

  • By Trevor Nichols
  • September 25, 2015
  • Life Sciences
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Blister packs
  • Labels
  • sachet
  • Carton packs

Back in April 2014 the Department of Health released a 32-page paper called NHS e-Procurement Strategy. The paper calls for the adoption of UDI traceability and mandates the use of GS1 standards within trusts. Let’s take a look at what that means for suppliers.

What is UDI and why is it necessary?

A UDI number is a unique numeric or alphanumeric code. It will make it quick and easy to identify and track medical devices in the supply chain, from supplier to patient. UDI numbers consist of two parts – a physical code and an associated data asset. The code, which must be human and machine-readable, identifies the product and contains secondary information such as expiry date and batch lot number. To implement a UDI system, senior leaders in healthcare have formed a new Healthcare Advisory Board to drive the adoption of GS1 standards.

Cohesion over chaos: introducing GS1 standards

GS1 is a proven framework that has been used successfully worldwide for many years for product identification. With the GS1 framework, every party in the supply chain is given a unique global identification number (GLN), while every product that enters the supply chain is given a unique global trade item number (GTIN).

  • GLN - global location number (for supply chain agents)
  • GTIN - global trade item number (applied to each individual supply chain product)

GTIN and GLN data is shared electronically through a global data synchronisation network (GDSN). The idea is that as products pass through the supply chain, they are scanned by each stakeholder and both GTIN and GLN information is updated automatically. It maintains a chain of custody as each product moves from one stakeholder to another and provides a global standard for product identification and traceability.

So how does the coding work?

It goes without saying that the codes must be applied at speed to avoid production line delays. But there are other considerations too. They must endure the lifespan of the product to preserve data integrity. And while speed is important, it must be balanced with the need for the code to be smudge-proof when using ink-based applications. Contrast and clarity must also be considered.

What technology is available?

Finding the right application depends on a number of factors including throughput, substrate selection and the legacy technology on your production line. Our CO2 D-Series lasers are ideal for carton and blister foil marking, while our F-Series fibre lasers are ideal for metal parts marking, such as engraving, colour-change coding and stainless steel annealing. Thermal inkjet printers are another option for marking packaging.

The adoption of GS1 standards is a hot topic among the upper echelons of the NHS. Now is the time to get your coding standards in line to show that you can help the NHS achieve compliance.

Any questions? Feel free to drop us a line.

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