Robot to help dispense medicines at St Richard’s

C121125-1 Chi Robot  phot kate''Alex Hand dispensary manager inside the automated drug dispenser.C121125-1
C121125-1 Chi Robot phot kate''Alex Hand dispensary manager inside the automated drug dispenser.C121125-1

A Chichester hospital is pioneering new, futuristic technology to assist its pharmacy staff.

The pharmacy at St Richard’s Hospital is now home to a new robotic device, designed to improve patient safety and speed up the process of dispensing medicines.
The £150,000 device will enable pharmacy staff to spend more time with patients on wards.

The robot consists of two mechanised ‘arms’, within a large storage container, which can read the barcodes on medication packaging, select the right medicine, and deliver it to pharmacy staff.

Saffron Mawby, head of medicines management at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “First and foremost, the pharmacy robot will provide a service which is even safer than it was before.

“The device will also speed up the process of getting medicines to patients, and it will give our staff more time on the wards, but when you are dispensing thousands and thousands of drugs every week the overriding priority is safety.”

The robot was funded by the Friends of Chichester Hospitals and the extensive building work to install the equipment was funded by the trust’s own charity, Love Your Hospital, and the pharmacy department’s own charitable fund.

The inside of the large container is home to more than 1,200 different types of treatments, and more than 18,000 individual items.

The pharmacy dispenses around 800 items every day and the vast majority of those drugs will be selected by the robot.
During the first few weeks of operation the use of the robot will be extended gradually, as the system is bedded in and staff receive more advanced training in its operation.

Jane Ramage, chairman of the friends of Chichester Hospitals said: “The Friends were very pleased to fund this equipment to complete modernisation of St Richard’s pharmacy and help make a real difference to the service provided to patients.

“The robot is the latest in a series of improvements the Friends have supported, which total around £200,000. This is made possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters and the dedication of the Friends’ volunteers.”

The next step is to make the robot available to ward staff around the clock.

In the future, if a St Richard’s 
inpatient requires clinically-urgent medication at night or over a weekend, ward staff simply contact the on-call pharmacist, who will be able to use a laptop to activate the robot from their home.

The machine will then instantly select the right drug and speed it along a conveyor belt into a secure cupboard, available for immediate collection.