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Pharmacy innovation saves hours of nursing time

Wednesday, 19 May, 2021
Pharmacy innovation saves hours of nursing time

More than 100 hours of nursing time is being saved each week on Northumberland and North Tyneside hospital wards through a project with real expansion potential.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s pharmacy team has driven the initiative, which sees doses of a key antibiotic used for treating serious and life-threatening infections being assembled in the specialist Pharmacy Production Unit.

It means that nurses don’t have to spend time preparing the medicine at ward level and instead receive a ready-to-administer product.

Nurses in the Trust administer around 100,000 doses a year of Piperacillin Tazobactam and the pharmacy production team has previously prepared around a third of those for use at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH) in Cramlington.

But during Covid-19, using redeployed staff who were unable to carry out normal duties, it was possible to increase production by 150 ready-to-administer injections per week to help relieve some of the pressures that the pandemic created for front-line staff.

Given the success of this pilot, the Trust provided investment for additional staff and the unit now produces an extra 17,000 doses annually for other hospital sites.

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 extra 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 development has been welcomed by nurses across the Trust, including Sarah Davison, the manager of the cardiology ward at Wansbeck General Hospital, pictured, who said: “IV (intravenous) medication is a key part of what wards likes ours do and it’s very time-consuming.”

Given the type of patients on her ward and the likelihood of secondary infections, there could be 21 of the 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.

Now, for the patients on Piperacillin Tazobactam – which is administered three times a day, with the ward potentially having four patients needing it on any given day – it takes just two minutes per patient to take it out of the fridge, carry out safety checks and administer, a significant reduction which means that Sarah is keen for the initiative to be expanded to other medicines.

“The convenience and the time saved for nursing is a massive benefit and means staff have more time to concentrate on caring for our patients,” she said. “But it’s also about doing things as safely as possible, as we know it’s exactly as it should be before we use it, it’s done in a very standardised way so every patient gets the same.”

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.”

Head of production, Mark Knowles, added: “We all have nurses in our families so we know personally the pressures they are up against.

“Through our efforts, we are improving quality, helping nurses to do their jobs and ultimately improving the care we provide to patients. It’s great knowing that our team is helping to make a difference.”


Media contact

Ben O’Connell, media and communications officer

Benjamin.O’Connell@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk or 07833 046680.


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