Robots are a pharmacist’s best friend

Glasgow is leading the way in robotic pharmacy, freeing up pharmacy staff to spend more time with patients and deliver drug dispensing efficiencies worth around £5m. The impact of the ‘techno team’ stretches across hospitals and health care facilities throughout Greater Glasgow and Clyde, but news of its success goes much further.

Tucked away in a secure modern business park in the south side of Glasgow this single high tech hub has replaced 14 separate pharmacy stores and now is at the heart of the distribution of all medicines used in hospitals and clinics throughout the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

The centre is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and is bristling with technology. Highly automated throughout, the robotic arms silently and swiftly go about their crucial business – obeying the electronically ordered medicine supplies from the wards and clinics of Scotland’s largest health board.

It handles 100,000 packs of medicines to 4,000 destination points every week.

The board has saved £5 million in efficiencies since the centre has been operational. The money has been reinvested back in to health care services to ensure patients feel the benefit.

The centre also manages the homecare service which provides specialist medicines directly to 3,800 patients at home and who attend specialists clinics, in both the Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire areas.

The centre also enables more than 40 specialist pharmacy staff, who were previously involved in the dispensing of medicine, to now work directly with patients on wards allowing nurses and doctors to spend more time on direct patient activities.

While this way of working is well established in Glasgow, it remains very much cutting edge technology elsewhere within the UK and a number of Trusts within NHS England are keen to learn from and replicate the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde model.

Norman Lannigan, Head of the Pharmacy and Prescribing Support Unit, NHSGGC, has been involved with the project since its inception and is delighted at the benefits it has delivered. He said: “The scale of the operation within the Pharmacy Distribution Centre is unique within the NHS.

Robotic Pharmacy Ward

“The technology at the centre has allowed us to release staff from their dispensing and distribution activities and to integrate them in to ward-based teams where they can use their knowledge and skills working with our patients to ensure that they get maximum benefit from their medicines.

“Pharmacy has much more to offer in the provision of direct care to patients than its traditional activity of dispensing and distributing medicines.

“The centre is an important part of the board’s ambitious modernisation programme.

As well as providing a state-of-the-art facility, it incorporates the latest robotic technology which speeds up the dispensing process, improves the patient experience and reduces costs.”