Media Release

Robot brings significant improvements to our pharmacy

Our busy pharmacy now has robot support – making it a safer, more efficient and modern operation.

A new £600,000 storage and dispensing system became functional in mid-March and visitors to the pharmacy and its team members are noticing the benefits.

Chief Pharmacist Nicola Berns is delighted with the early results, following a two-year period to bring the project to fruition.

Nicola Berns in robot's storage area
Chief Pharmacist Nicola Berns inside the robot’s storage area

Mrs Berns said: “A robot is inherently more accurate than a person so patient safety is improved.

“It also improves the speed of dispensing so we’re seeing reduced waiting times and improved patient flow.

“We’re really pleased with it and it’s already making a huge difference.”

The BD Rowa Vmax system has the capacity to store more than 17,000 different packs. They are introduced via a hopper, which can take hundreds of packs at a time and work 24/7.

Every pack’s barcode and expiry date is read before being stored, ready for picking by one of the robot’s two arms when a prescription is entered.

Part-packs of drugs can also be introduced, therefore optimising the use of medicines and further reducing wastage.

The system is so precise that an item accidentally displaced from its proper storage position by even a millimetre or two will cause a brief shutdown until the issue is rectified by staff. This ensures the highest quality and accuracy of dispensing is always maintained.

The two robot arms at work
The robot’s two arms at work, picking items

The introduction of the system has been welcomed by staff, as it has improved both the efficiency of dispensing and the design of the pharmacy, creating a much more spacious and pleasant environment. Within the next year the robot will provide a further benefit of adding labels to boxes.

“It’s changed the way we work,” said Mrs Berns. “We used to have people running around dispensing but the robot enables us to spend more time on people-facing activities such as reviewing drugs with patients, ward rounds and medicines optimisation.”

Apprentice pharmacist Rapik Mangaser
Apprentice Pharmacist Rapik Mangaser collects a pack picked by the robot and delivered into the dispensary via a chute

She paid tribute to all the partners involved in the project, including the 60 pharmacy staff members, adding: “It’s been a really challenging time, particularly during January and February while alterations were being made to the workspace and the robot was being installed.

“This transformation was necessary as the hospital was getting busier and busier but the pharmacy’s capacity had stayed the same. The robot has made things much more manageable and we now have a system capable of delivering a safe and speedy operation long into the future.”

Mrs Berns said the next big project to be looked at is electronic prescribing to further improve patient safety and efficiency.


To download the press release and images click here

Caption for featured image: Chief Pharmacist Nicola Berns with some of the pharmacy’s 60 staff