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 do not have to spend time preparing the medicine at ward level and instead receive a ready-to-administer product.
The trust’s nurses 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, 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.
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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, manager of the cardiology ward at Wansbeck General Hospital.
She said: “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.
“But it’s also about doing things as safely as possible, as we know it’s exactly as it should be before use – it’s done in a very standardised way so every patient gets the same.”