Hospital becomes first in UK to give newborn babies barcoded wristbands and labels for heel prick tests

A hospital has introduced a system to give babies barcode wristbands rather than hand-written bands, it said today.

Kettering General Hospital in Northamptonshire is introducing the new system which simultaneously prints a barcoded wristband and a barcoded sticky label for a heel prick test within an hour of birth.

The heel prick labels are then added to the back of the red baby record book, which parents take home with them, and the wrist band is attached to the baby's wrist or ankle.

The hospital said the National Patient Safety Agency had asked for standardised wristbands to be used throughout the NHS and the UK Newborn Screening Programme asked all maternity units to produce barcoded blood spot cards by April 1 this year.

A spokesman said the new system means Kettering General has introduced both methods for its labour ward.

He said the hospital was not the first to use barcoded bands for babies, but may be one of the first to combine this with heel prick testing labels.

The new method allows hospital staff to have more information about the baby, including name, NHS number, date of birth, sex and mother's name.

Previously basic information would have been hand-written on the wrist band, which could be less reliable.

Secondly, a baby has its routine heel prick screening test at about five days after birth and normally a midwife would hand-write a form along with blood taken for the test and send it to a regional laboratory.

It is hoped the new system will reduce possible errors which could come with a hand-written system.

Information technology project manager at Kettering General Hospital, Paula Lilburn, said: 'The main reason for the introduction of barcoded wristbands and barcoded heel prick blood spot labels is to improve safety in hospitals.

'Our new system produces the baby wristband and it also produces a heel prick label which then goes in the back of the red baby book which mums and dads take home with them.

'The labels are used by community midwives around day five after birth to identify the heel prick blood sample.

'They send off the blood test and the label together to a regional screening laboratory to be tested for conditions like sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis.

'Again the previous alternative was for the form to be hand-written - with the consequent problem of deciphering handwriting.

'The new system is quicker and safer because if the barcoded information can be quickly read by the computers without the possibility of human transcription errors.'

The hospital said that, in other places where barcoding has been introduced, such as Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, it had reduced the time taken to enter a baby's information by 400 per cent. (Daily Mail Reporter, 4.22.2010)

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