Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 28

East Kent Hospitals trust's pharmacy modernisation began four years ago. Since then it has centralised pharmacy sub-specialties while maintaining site services.

The role of clinical pharmacy technicians was expanded to do ward-based supply, give patients information and improve communications with primary care trusts.

For example, our pharmacists now run a service to identify and correct prescribing errors, educating staff and improving patient understanding in the process. They are also expanding into supplementary prescribing roles.

An education and training department was also set up to train pharmacy staff, including student pharmacy technicians and preregistration pharmacists.

These initiatives have helped reduce vacancy rates from 15-20 per cent in 2001 to 1.7 per cent last year.

Other modernisation strategies included a review of dispensary services, which resulted in a greater use of robotics for dispensing.

Pharmacy aseptic services used to be done on three sites, but have been centralised on a capitally funded new build enabling an aggregated pool of staff.

Materials management amounts to 150 separate top-ups for stock drugs each week, so there are significant benefits to centralising this service. Pharmacy assistants from each site continue to visit wards to identify stock requirements and record them on handheld PCs.

These are downloaded into the central stock-management system.

The picking list requests are then picked by a distribution robot and sent to the requesting hospital.

Centralisation of distribution is planned for next month. This will reduce overall stock holding and release cash in a 'one-off' liquidation of assets.

Current stock-holding across all pharmacy departments equates to about£2m, so a 10 per cent reduction would save£200,000.

Medicines procurement is centralised in a single store, reducing orders by two thirds.

Stephen Cook is director of pharmacy at East Kent Hospitals trust.