A NEW staff member has been welcomed to the pharmacy team at Airedale Hospital to speed up their dispensing service – an automated robot.

The £410,000 addition to the team allows pharmacy staff to spend more time on wards working directly with nurses and doctors, and helping patients to understand their medicines.


The giant machine, measuring 10x3 metres, comes with two robotic picking arms, a refrigerated section, and an additional set of cabinets for storage and management of controlled drugs.

The robot is expected to reduce dispensing errors and halve the turnaround time for dispensing a prescription to one hour, which will help patients get home sooner.

It will also reduce wastage, by giving staff more time to check medicines that patients bring in and review their medical histories.

Robots have already been installed at many hospitals, including the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General, where big improvements have been made.

Deborah Walker, lead pharmacy technician for medicines distribution at Airedale, which serves patients from Pendle, said: “The robot has been a joy to work with. We no longer make trips to our storeroom. It takes away a lot of the manual parts of our job and allows us to spend more time with patients.”

About 80 per cent of medicines are now held by the robot, which is linked to the department’s computer system. When an order is placed, the required medicines are picked by a robotic arm and delivered to the dispensary work station by conveyor belt.

Nick Chilton, clinical director of pharmacy and medicine management, said: “The project has been in the trust’s capital plan for some years and the pharmacy team are very excited. It has become a reality with help from the Department Of Health’s Safer Wards – Safer Hospital Fund and the Trust’s digital care programme.

“Not only will the robot improve safety and improve patient experience, it will also reduce stock holding of medicines.”