New prescription vending machine gives Sunderland Royal Hospital patients 24/7 service - here's how it works

A new prescription vending machine has been installed at Sunderland Royal Hospital so patients can have to access their medication around the clock without needing to queue at the pharmacy.

The new machine offers a 24/7 service at the push of a button and has been installed in the hospital’s main entrance after South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust decided to put the technology to the test.

The Pharmaself24 was piloted by around 100 patients who have rheumatoid arthritis and following the 12 month trial and positive feedback, the system is set to be used by other patients such as those treated by the hospital’s renal department.

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A patient who has signed up to the service will receive a message to say their supply is ready to collect before they are sent a six-digit pin code to tap into the machine.

James Hubbard is the Chief Superintendent Pharmacist for City Hospitals Independent Commercial Enterprises Ltd (CHoICE) which runs pharmacy services for the Trust.

After answering a series of questions, similar to visiting the pharmacy in person to ensure the medication is right for them, a robot arm inside picks up the prescription, deposits the ready-packed medication down a chute and into a drawer to pick up.

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The team is also looking at adding further machines, which dispense medication just as it would be presented over the counter, in other locations.

The secure machines are used by some community pharmacies, but the Trust believes it is the first in the UK to have one installed in a hospital.

The Sunderland Royal hospital has become the first in the country to install a vending machine which allows patients to access their prescription medication 24/7 at the touch of a few buttons.

James Hubbard, Chief Superintendent Pharmacist for City Hospitals Independent Commercial Enterprises Ltd (CHoICE) said: “We are delighted to be the first hospital in the country to utilise new technology to allow our patients to pick up their prescriptions 24/7.

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“The machine complements the week day service we offer from our outpatient pharmacy, but gives our patients more choice and flexibility around when they want to collect their prescriptions.

“Technology and medicine is always advancing and it’s important we keep up with these changes and look at how we can improve experiences for our patients. Following the successful trial we hope to be able to install more of the machines across our other Trust venues.”

James Hubbard, Superintendent Pharmacist for CHoICE, loads up a prescription into the back of the prescription vending machine