New pharmacy process goes live at Northumbria Healthcare NHS FT

A new procedural innovation implemented by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is set to cut hours of nursing time. The process was first piloted at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH) in Cramlington. 

The initiative will see medication and doses of antibiotics being assembled in the specialist Pharmacy Production Unit, instead of nurses working on the treatment themselves, the medication will be able to be delivered to healthcare teams, to administer straight away. 

Head of quality, Kyle Winn, explained: “It takes on average 20 minutes per dose to reconstitute the vials on the ward and if a nurse has six or seven patients needing these antibiotics, that’s a massive time burden for already-stretched nursing teams, so we wanted to do something to help. 

“The doses we are producing are now saving an additional 109 hours of nursing time a week, but there is more we can do and we will keep trying to increase production further to release even more staff time to care.” 

The trust said in an example scenario: “There could be 21 of 27 patients on IVs at any one time and the entire process for preparing and administering these takes around two-and-a-half hours across three members of staff. Even on a quieter day, with around 13 patients on IVs, the staff time needed would be about an hour-and-a-half. With the new process in place,  it will take two minutes per patient for the medication distributed and safety checked, saving hours of staff time.”  

The initiative is a result of a trial that took place during the pandemic in which, the trust utilised redeployed staff to produce 150 injections per week, to ease the pressure of frontline staff. Responding to the success of the trial, the Trust increased funding for additional staff, and the unit produces 17,000 extra doses for external hospital sties. 

Northumbria Healthcare’s chief pharmacist, David Campbell, said: “This service helps make it easier for nurses to do all the other important things for patients on their wards – that has been the motivation behind this development. 

 “There is a push nationally for the creation of regional hubs to do this type of production on a much larger scale, so there is plenty of scope to develop this even further and bring the benefits to more areas.”