Trust celebrates pharmacy robotics system on World Pharmacists Day

Friday 25 September is World Pharmacists Day – a day recognising the vital role pharmacy and medication play in healthcare.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is marking the day by unveiling its newest recruits – two state-of-the-art pharmacy robots.

The BD Rowa Vmax robots have quickly become an integral part of the Trust’s pharmacy dispensary and stores team as they scan, store and distribute thousands of packs of medication every week.

The pharmacy store distributes 225,000 items of medication every year, which has historically involved picking individual packs of medicines from a shelf, ensuring stock is in date and manually recording stock levels.

Recent legislation to reduce the risk of falsified medicines requires a unique barcode on each of the 36,000 packs of medication received by the Trust to be scanned to ensure authenticity. A task which takes up to 70 hours per month if managed manually.

The pharmacy robots allow the team to supply medicines quickly and reduce the likelihood of medicines picking errors. As well as fulfilling individual prescriptions, the robots can also communicate with on-ward medicine cabinets to ensure standard items are always in stock.

Umair Hamid, Associate Chief Pharmacist (Operations) led the team to introduce the robots. He said: “We implemented automation in our dispensing process to reduce picking human errors, manage stock automatically and ensure all the medications are authentic.

“It was a huge amount of work to get them up and running. The robots have a hopper system to feed in the medication for scanning and verification. They then automatically store the medication in secure cabinets.

“When a dispensary colleague logs in the robot will fulfil the prescription as required and deposit the medication. It’s like a high-tech vending machine!

“The robots also ‘talk’ to our medication cabinets and automatically complete orders by sending medication along a conveyor belt system to trollies which will be transferred to the wards.

“The on-call pharmacist can even remotely dispense prescriptions from home on a lap top and instruct the robots to deliver the medication to a secure location on site.

“It’s faster, more efficient and reduces errors.”

Dr Mojgan H Sani (Director Medicines Optimisation & Chief Pharmacist) commented: “Umair’s great leadership skills made this change happen in a safe and effective manner. He took the team on the journey.”  Mojgan also expressed her thanks to the Trust’s Digital Programmes Team’s Professor Graham Evans, Gillian Colquhoun and Kat Sykes.

It’s not the first time this year that the Pharmacy and Medicines Optimisation team has worked hard to improve their service. Tasked with making £1m in savings, without compromising the health and recovery of our patients, the team achieved an astonishing saving of £2.4m by working in close collaboration with clinical colleagues to ensure best value at every stage of a patient’s care.

A video demonstration of the robots can be viewed on the Trust’s YouTube channel.

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