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Pharmacy team plays key role as PillTime ward roll-out gathers pace

PHARMACY and nursing colleagues who are piloting a safer and speedier way of dispensing medication to patients are hailing its launch a big success – as they work together on accelerating the next stages of its roll-out.

PillTime – which breaks new ground by using robot technology to ensure patients receive the right medicine on time, every time - went live in November as part of a 8-bed trial on our Pendleton Suite, with nurses already telling us it is saving them time on each medication trolley round.

Following further phases of expansion, the whole 49-bed intermediate care ward will soon be served by PillTime.

Much of the trial’s smooth and successful introduction is down to work carried out behind-the-scenes over the past few months by our pharmacy team.

A fully-functional PillTime dispensary – featuring a robot and optical checker - has been set up in the department, in tandem with a comprehensive training programme for staff.

Here, the robot collates different patient medication and dispenses it in individual, sealed pouches in the order it needs to be taken. Each one is checked by advanced image recognition technology as well as highly-trained pharmacy colleagues to ensure the highest possible level of accuracy.

These innovative safeguards eliminate the risk of human error and make medication administration simple, promoting patient safety.

“It has been a great team-effort to turn the idea into reality and launch the ward trials here at Salford Royal,” said Lindsay Harper, our Director of Pharmacy. “Everyone is proud to be at the forefront of an initiative that ultimately could revolutionise NHS hospitals,

“We have embraced the exciting dimension that PillTime brings to our work - the science of the robot wedded to the home-grown skills of our team is a winning combination.

“Taking forward the concept from the Digital Experience centre – where we were first introduced to it – and successfully transferring the technology onto the wards, for the benefit of our nursing colleagues and patients, has proved an exciting challenge.”

The key benefits of PillTime for our patients and our Trust include improvements to dispensing accuracy; fewer medication errors, timely administration to patients and reduced missed doses.

Lindsay added: “We are all now looking forward to working with our Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) and Future Digital colleagues to evaluate the trial, and listen to the experiences of frontline staff on the ward.

“This will equip us with a vital first-hand insight for working with PillTime to maximising the clear potential it has – not just for ourselves but also for the wider NHS.”

To eliminate confusion, each pouch is clearly labelled with the name of the patient as well as the day, date and time the dose has to be taken, the description of the tablet and the expiry – a further layer of safety welcomed by nurses taking part in the trial.

Janelle Daniels, a Sister on the Pendleton Suite, said: “Having the name on the pouch is really helpful, especially for those nurses new to a ward who perhaps don’t know their patient. It makes it easier and simpler to do a double safety-check by their bedside.”

Staff nurse Shannon Leigh added: “The initiative makes a big difference to nurses like me in the way that it simplifies and speeds up our medication rounds.

“When I first started as a nurse, some of the bigger and more complex rounds could take me up to two hours. 

“And while it is now far quicker for me having done so many, PillTime is saving me a lot of time – especially as there are up to four rounds a day,”

The next stage of the pilot project will soon see the PillTime technology extend to benefit those patients discharged to Heartly Green and The Limes. It is hoped this will improve the discharge process and bolster medication adherence post-admission.

PillTime is the latest innovation to go live as part of our programme of more than 50 world-class projects being brought to life by our Global Digital Exemplar and Future Digital teams.

  •  Combining technology with the expertise of our pharmacy team ... our picture shows Toni Downie, Chief Pharmacy Technician Education and Training, and Anne Stewart, Technical Support Services Manager with the PillTime robot.
  • Speeding up medication rounds on the ward ... our photo shows Janelle and Shannon making best use of the PillTime initiative.

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