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Hospital unveils robot that is the first of its kind in the UK

Poole Hospital has officially unveiled a prescription dispensing robot that is the first of its type in the UK.

The robot is part of a £650,000 five-month refurbishment of the hospital’s pharmacy and members of key partner organisations from as far as Italy attended the official opening event at the hospital on Thursday (17 May).

The robot boosts the efficiency, accuracy and speed in which prescriptions are distributed to inpatients, improves medication safety by reducing errors and is projected to reap a financial and an environmental benefit by reducing wastage of expired stock.

It was designed by Swisslog, a company that specialises in automation solutions for logistics and healthcare, and the company’s solutions manager for pharmacy automation, Daniel Bernardi, was at the event.

“It was great to see the robot in action in the new bright and organised work environment, which has been very well-conceived,” said Daniel.

“We chose Poole Hospital because of the environment - the fact that staff were already experienced with robots meant it was the perfect case for our technology.”

The robot can store up to 28,000 items and has two autonomous arms that load and unload medicines for circulation around the hospital.

These arms can dispense 200 items in an hour and the robot also has the ability to check expiry dates by reading barcodes on the packaging.

This all means decreased waiting times for inpatient prescriptions resulting in a quicker turnaround in bed availability for new inpatients.

Dena Godward, chief pharmacist at Poole Hospital, said: “We’re already seeing changes from the robot and we have reduced our turnaround time for discharge prescriptions by 15 minutes.

“Patient safety, staff morale and our processes have all improved under this project.”

Andrew Davies, NHS Improvement’s national professional lead for hospital pharmacy, was the event’s guest of honour and believes that the robot’s connection to the air tubes that send medication to the hospital’s aseptic preparation unit and the on-site LloydsPharmacy, is ‘an opportunity for other trusts’.

“It’s really good to see a department so well recognised by its chief executive and chairman and the enthusiasm from the entire pharmacy team,” said Andrew. 

“Other hospitals have robots and air tubes made by different manufacturers and they can’t connect so this is an opportunity for other trusts to look at this as a potential future installation.

“The robot will allow the pharmacy team to spend more time on wards and ensure patient care is advanced in every way possible.”

Andrew Davies cuts the ribbon to officially open the robot and the refurbished pharmacy. (L-R) Steve Erskine, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chairman, Daniel Bernardi, Andrew Davies, Debbie Fleming, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chief executive, Dena Godward

Refurbishd pharmacy and prescription dispensing robot opening ribbon cut

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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