Scottish hospital to use robots to move goods

  • 9 July 2007

Robots transporting hospital goods and equipment will be used for the first time in a new hospital being built at Larbert in Stirlingshire, under a £300m private finance initiative.

The robots are being developed by a consortium involved in the new build and will run along separate corridors and use magnetic strips or infra red to find their way around. Work on the new hospital is expected to be completed by December 2009.

A spokesperson for John Laing, one of the consortium members told E-Health Insider: “This new £300m hospital will replace the Falkirk and Stirling Royal Infirmaries and is aiming to provide state-of-the-art facilities for all patients in the Forth Valley area. The trust have been looking at ways to transport clean and dirty goods and equipment across the hospital, and have chosen to invest in robotics similar to those used in France and Japan.

“These robots will work with a camera guiding it along the wards and a warning system attached. There will be clear linkage to facilities management and at no time will the robots be near patients. The aim is to have them working alongside porters as an aid to their day-to-day jobs. I must stress that patient safety will in no way be jeopardised.”

The robots will find their way about the new hospital by either following a metal strip on the floor or by infra-red sensors.

They will be separated from patients, moving down an entirely different network of corridors will be used to transport linen, waste and medical equipment.

The hospital’s facilities management team will be responsible for overseeing and controlling the robots with a live link to the camera footage filmed by the robot and a dedicated porter with the robots at all times.

The robots will be used to transport linen, waste and medical equipment using automated transportation to avoid them going off-route. They will not be used to transport patients, with porters continuing to perform these duties.

The spokesperson added: “Work on developing these robots has just begun and we anticipate it to be a revolution in UK healthcare once the hospital is open and the technology has been tried and tested.”

David Stark, a director of the architectural company Keppie Design which designed the new hospital, told the BBC: “Hospitals are a huge facilities management nightmare for people. Lots of materials require to get to the right place at the right time. Dirty materials, linens and so on require to be taken away and its a huge logistic exercise.

“In France and Japan, they use a mixture of robotics and manual handling. It makes sense because robots can do the task more efficiently is certain cases.”

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