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£1.2m investment in pharmacy robots

Robot

Robot

Robot

Caption: 1) A robot like the ones that will be installed at Colchester General Hospital, which will be among the most advanced automated medicines storage robots in the UK. They will automatically sort, securely store and automatically deliver medicine packs, helping to speed up the dispensing process and eliminate errors.

2) The robots will automatically sort, scan and store all medicines within its shelves, which will free up pharmacy staff to spend more time with patients.

3) The robot picking head will automatically reach out to collect the packs from the robot shelving. It will then deliver them directly to the pharmacist's terminal, saving valuable time in the dispensing process.

9 October 2013

Work is underway on a £1.2m project to install two robots in the pharmacy at Colchester General Hospital.

Two of the key advantages of the state-of-the-art technology are that it will speed up dispensing and reduce the likelihood of medication errors.

The investment will also free up space in the pharmacy department for an expansion of the hospital's accident and emergency department.

The bigger robot will be located in the Pharmacy Support Unit, which is a stand-alone building where pharmaceuticals are stored and manufactured, and the other will be based in the hospital's main building and used to dispense medication for outpatients.

Dr Richard Needle, Chief Pharmacist, said the equipment was properly referred to as automatic dispensing systems but everyone used the word "robots".

He said: "This project is a very exciting development. The technology being introduced is state-of-the-art and will help us enhance the service we give to patients and staff on the wards.

"Although they are always called robots, they do not look like most people's idea of a robot.

"In some ways, they are like a juke-box in that a member of the pharmacy team selects a particular drug and the robot goes off and picks it.

"We have about 50,000 pharmaceutical items and in some cases the packaging is very similar for up to half-a-dozen of them. Therefore, there is a risk of human error but if the robot is asked to dispense a particular medication, it will always get it right."

Dr Needle said the robots would also do stock checks and automatically order fresh supplies if supplies of a particular medication were running low.

Robots had become commonplace in hospital pharmacies and their advantages were universally acknowledged, he added. The first robot is expected to go into service in Colchester in March next year.

The pharmacy department, which has about 100 staff at Colchester General Hospital, has also started to trial tablet computers, which operate via the hospital's secure wi-fi system.

It means pharmacy staff can order drugs directly without having to write an order for the pharmacy.

The tablets can also be used for looking up an individual patient's details and writing discharge letters.

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