It might not quite have the same ring as the Daleks’ infamous “exterminate!” death call but hi-tech droids are set to lend a helping hand behind the scenes at two local hospitals.
And that’s because a trio of state-of-the-art robots will be helping to dish out the drugs and pick out the pills after being fired into action.
The pharmacy departments at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals won’t be echoing to the bleeping and chattering sounds of Star Wars legends R2D2 and C3PO just yet though - but the automated bots will play a key role in dispensing and storing medicines.
The new arrivals have affectionately been named them Zippy, Bungle and George - after the trio of puppet characters from children’s television favourite Rainbow.
Zippy is already busily storing and dispensing medicines at Bassetlaw Hospital while Bungle and George are based at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
Since going live a couple of months ago, the robots have already made their mark and have speeded up the dispensing service for patients on the wards at both hospitals.
On average, medicines prescribed for inpatients are now dispensed and delivered to the wards in half the time it previously took.
Andrew Barker, clinical director for pharmacy and medicines management at the trust, said: “The main driving forces behind this £1 million development are the increasing demand for medicines dispensing and the need to reduce the waiting times for patients receiving their discharge medicines.
“The new robots have certainly delivered these, plus a more secure and efficient service.”
The robots have saved the Trust £300,000 by enabling stock to be managed more effectively, keeping track of when medicines are due to expire, and reducing waste through expired medicines by almost 20 per cent. The Trust now has more efficient storage of its medicines with more being stored in the same space as the previous traditional shelving with extra security.
The trio operate by receiving a request to process a prescription from pharmacy staff via computers and the robot arm then whizzes along the shelves and selects the right medication.
It then labels the package with the patient’s details and instructions on how to take the medicine and dispatches it through a system of conveyers to the member of staff who requested it.
The installation was part of the Trust’s pharmacy development, which also included the innovative outpatient pharmacy run by The Co-Operative Pharmacy which opened in March this year.
The chemist is open between 9am and 6.30pm on weekdays and also Saturday mornings with a delivery service for patients with repeat prescriptions and those who prefer not to wait.