Barnsley Hospital’s busy inpatient pharmacy dispenses around 25,000 individual items of medication across our wards each month, while outpatients take home an additional 7,500 items per month. The pharmacy’s workload requires meticulous attention to detail and accuracy.

The hospital has around 100 employees in its pharmacy department. As well as having two automated dispensaries serving inpatients in a 350+ bed hospital and Outpatients, there is also a large ward-based clinical team, comprising Pharmacists and Medicines Management Technicians who work closely with the medical and nursing staff to optimise patients’ medication regimes.

In addition, pharmacy also has an Aseptics unit which prepares items such as chemotherapy medication in a sterile environment , a busy on-call pharmacist service for out of hours, pharmacy-led clinics in anticoagulants and inflammatory bowel disease, a Medicines Information service, a drugs procurement and stores team and a high cost drugs /Home care service with nursing backup.

Deputy Chief Pharmacist Nisha Pounj-Taylor said: “Nurses and doctors can call on bank staff or locums when there are staffing issues such as sickness. However, we can’t do that. Our pharmacy standard is to turn prescriptions around within a two-hour window once they have been received. Every single item of medication needs to be stringently checked before we can release drugs to our patients.”

Occasionally some patients being discharged from hospital may perceive there is a delay in receiving their discharge medication, and that they are waiting around before they can go home. Nisha explained: “Once a patient has been informed they can go home, the doctor needs to complete a discharge prescription. Doctors undertake their ward rounds at varying times within the day and sometimes we may not receive a prescription until late in a day. Once we receive the discharge prescription a pharmacist then has to clinically check it to ensure there are no errors and that all medications which the patient needs to go home with have been prescribed. If there is any query we may need to contact the doctor to make further checks. Once the prescription has been checked, the medication needs to be dispensed. At this stage, further checks are made to see that it has been dispensed correctly. At every stage in our process there is an accuracy check which is vital under our Standard Operating Procedures to ensure that all our patients receive the right medications for them.”

Our hospital pharmacy is getting busier as the population is ageing and more patients come to the hospital. Yet pharmacy has been able to maintain its performance standard in turning medication around within the two-hour window at above 90%.

To support our continued focus on ensuring patients wait the least amount of time possible, Barnsley Hospital’s inpatient dispensary had been automated with significant investment in pharmacy robots as well as a newly expanded Outpatients’ pharmacy to accommodate the demand. Other recent new technologies include our new medication tracking system ProTrack, which reports the status of medicine prescriptions from being received, clinically checked, dispensed and finally ready for collection by nursing staff. This enables the ward staff to monitor the progress of a patient’s medication in real time with immediate communication once the prescription is ready.

Nisha said: “We understand it can sometimes be frustrating to have to wait but we’re working hard behind the scenes to make sure all safety checks and required protocols are in place. We hope the investments in the pharmacy services will continue to support this. Our primary aim is always to work together with nursing and medical colleagues in order to optimise patient care.”