Why Breast Implants Will Now Have Barcodes

Breast implants are being printed with barcodes to improve patient safety and avoid a repeat of the PIP breast implant scandal.

Back in 2010 there were problems tracing the roughly 50,000 British women who had been fitted with faulty silicone implants, which had double the rupture rate of other implants.

Around 400,000 women in 65 countries were affected and there were 4,000 reported ruptures. Women were often unable to find out if they'd been given the faulty implants and those who had been given them often couldn't be traced.

The new barcode system, devised by the Department of Health, involves scanning a patient's identity wristband and the product packets of every implant and medicine given to them, the BBC reported.

Other medical equipment, such as replacement hips and surgical tools, will also be given barcodes as part of the initiative.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it could save lives because people die every week from being given the wrong medicine or treatment on the NHS.

"We also have a number of operations where the wrong implant is put into someone's body and then that has to be changed at a later date. If we use modern barcode technology, we can deal with a lot of these problems."

It is hoped the barcodes will both prevent such errors from happening in the first place and make it quicker and easier to fix problems that arise.

Hunt said it will also help save the NHS money – roughly £1bn over the next seven years, reported the BBC.

Surgeons will reportedly be able to use the barcodes to assess how different types of implant are performing in terms of wear and tear, by looking at the date of when they need replacing.

The Scan4Safety scheme has ben piloted at six NHS hospitals across England so far: in Derby, Leeds, Salisbury, Cornwall, North Tees and Plymouth.

"Knowledge is power," said Tim Wells, a consultant cardiologist at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust.

"This provides us with a level of data and insight that can be used to better challenge clinical practice and variation, helping us to reduce inefficiencies and improve patient experience and outcomes. But, more importantly, it ultimately helps to safeguard our patients from avoidable harm.

"In the event of a product recall, we can now easily and quickly track an affected product to the right patient."

Until now, the NHS has never been able to track medical products through the supply chain.
Advertisement