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Pharmacy automation

McKesson UK's automated dispensing capacity to double by June 2020

The automation of centrally dispensed items has led to a significant reduction in medication errors, McKesson UK has claimed.

Pharmacy2U dispensing facility

Source: Dave Phillips

McKesson UK has said it wants to grow its automated dispensing capacity, following Pharmacy2U’s announcement that it would be opening a new dispensing facility

The parent company of LloydsPharmacy, McKesson UK, has announced plans to double the number of items it dispenses through its centrally automated system by June 2020. 

The chain dispensed more than 5 million items through 548 pharmacies in the seven months between April 2019 and November 2019, meaning the increase would take the number of centrally dispensed items towards the 10 million mark.

Lucy Robertson, head of central operations at McKesson UK, said the company has seen its number of medication errors “halved” through the use of centralised automated dispensing.

She said that as a result, McKesson UK is looking to grow its automated dispensing capacity “by optimising” its three dispensing warehouses in Bristol, Ruislip and Warrington, while also introducing “additional night shifts” in the warehouses.

Her comments come after Pharmacy2U announced in September 2018 that it would open a new dispensing facility, enabling it to increase its dispensing capacity to 7.5 million items per month — a 16-fold increase in its former capacity.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum conference in London on 20 November 2019, Robertson said: “That’s 5 million items that the pharmacists haven’t needed to physically touch,” adding that the company has “actually halved [its] errors” through the automated system.

Robertson clarified that the company is “relatively comfortable” working below a rate of 1 error per 10,000 prescriptions, but she added: “We are well below half of that.”

She said the company is, therefore, investing in its centralised dispensing and “looking to see where we can go in the future”, adding that by June 2020, “we will double our capacity”.

Speaking to the The Pharmaceutical Journal, Robertson explained: “We will do this by optimising our operation to help us get the most out of our existing lines, which means we will be able to process a higher number of prescriptions each day.”

“As demand increases, we may also introduce additional night shifts to help us double our capacity,” she added.

In July 2019, The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed Boots’s plans to roll out access to its dispensing support pharmacy to 580 of its stores, with the aim of it dispensing 22 million prescriptions per year.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207387

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