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clarebartonstmarysmedicinecabinetThe Isle of Wight NHS Trust is leading the way in how drugs are stored and accessed by clinical staff on hospital wards thanks to funding from the NHSE Technology Fund.

In what is a UK first, 15 wards and departments at St Mary’s Hospital will have all their medicines stored in automated Omnicell cabinets which are linked to electronic prescribing. This means that medicines can be selected for specific patients using touch recognition technology such as keyless, fingerprint access.

The new drug cabinets on each ward are automatically refilled through a link with the ‘pharmacy robot’ which is based in the main Pharmacy Department. This not only releases time which can be better used caring for patients, but also improves patient safety on the wards.  Ward staff no longer have to remember usernames and passwords but simply use the touch recognition technology therefore saving considerable time. The system provides 24 hour security and access for medicines and there is a clear record of who has issued which medicine.

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Gillian Honeywell, Chief Pharmacist at St Mary’s Hospital, said:

“This system is in place in some other countries, particularly the US, but has been a challenge in the UK. We have worked closely with the technology companies to achieve this closed loop for medicines management on the Isle of Wight, where we are recognised as forerunners in adopting technology to improve efficiency and release time to care, and will be sharing our experience across Europe.

“What the doctor has actually prescribed is what gets picked from the cabinet using the linked electronic prescription details; removing as many steps, choices and obstacles as possible. It is significantly more secure and auditable; it tells us what it needs and when it needs it on a daily basis. It’s easy for pharmacy staff to keep it tidy and for the nurses to get the right drug at the right time for the right patient.”

Ward staff have been getting used to the new system. Speaking about her experience of using the new technology, Clare Barton, Staff Nurse on Colwell Ward (pictured above), said:

“The biggest difference it has made is that we don’t have to hunt around for keys anymore because it’s all finger coded. It makes you more aware of the drugs you’re handling—rather than routing through cupboards, a specific cupboard opens for a specific drug. The machine will only offer you what you’re asking, which is a way of it being checked. This system is time-saving and I think it is great!”

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Gill Honeywell, continued:

“The system is being rolled out to most wards allowing a hospital wide knowledge of where medicines are available and we will be installing in our Ambulance station as one of the first to use technology to manage medicines in the Ambulance Service. Our pledge to NHSE and the Trust is to prove value for money and evaluate all of the benefits to help others plan their technology progress. Many Trusts have already visited the Isle of Wight and are very excited about the project.”

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