Omnicell UK & Ireland, the world-leading provider of automated healthcare solutions and medication adherence packaging launched a new campaign SAFE: Safeguard Against Frontline Errors at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress show which took place at the London ExCel.

The campaign aims to raise awareness and promote best practice standards of care within the management of medication across the NHS, in line with key recommendations from both the Lord Carter report (February 2016) and the subsequent CQC report into patient safety within the NHS (March 2017).

The administration and management of medication is paramount to optimise safety and efficiency within a hospital, care home or community setting. In the 12 months, between October 2015 and September 2016, more than 190,000 medication errors involving the prescribing, dispensing or administering of drugs were reported in England to the NHS National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS)1. These errors include giving the wrong medicine, the wrong dose of the right medicine — or even giving medicine to the wrong patient. The majority, nearly 150,000, were reported in hospitals. Yet technology exists via innovative digital dispensing and management systems which can dramatically reduce, if not eradicate these errors in hospitals.

Without doubt nurses and frontline staff are stretched and working under increasing pressure, with significant numbers of patients on complex medication regimes. The SAFE campaign aims to throw the spotlight on the importance of providing a safety net for the administration of drugs to help support our much-valued NHS workforce.

Effective inventory management, minimising stock-outs and reducing missed doses are just some of the many benefits of automated dispensing systems, as well as freeing up pharmacy and nursing staff time to focus on face-to-face patient care. Yet surprisingly, many hospitals are yet to automate their medication automation process.

One hospital that is transforming the way medicines are managed on the wards is Chesterfield Royal Hospital who were looking for a way to free up pharmacy time to focus on medicines optimisation in line with the Lord Carter report. The Trust installed Omnicell Automated Medication Administration Cabinets in four key areas of the hospital – all held large numbers of medicines. Some of these medicines are high risk where picking errors could potentially occur with serious consequences for patients. In three of these areas the cabinets were integrated with the Trust’s EPMA system, the prime driver being to improve safety, reduce stock holding levels and free up nursing time.

Since installation, staff in pharmacy now have a clearer picture of what is going on in each ward in terms of medication. In addition, it has reduced the amount of time that pharmacy ATOs spend on the ward doing manual top ups. This free time will now be used on more patient facing roles, helping to co-ordinate discharge processes to free up bed space and talking to patients about their medication. The Trust hopes will help improve the whole patient experience.

The new approach has also been welcomed by nurses at the hospital too. Automating the process has ensured they can access the medicine patients need straight away rather than wasting time searching for drug cupboard keys or going to the medication cupboard only to discover the medicine hasn’t been restocked. This benefits the patient as they are not waiting for long periods of time for the medicine they need to get better or manage their condition effectively.

As part of the SAFE campaign, Head of Medicines Management at the Trust, Martin Shepherd, spoke at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress about the benefits of investing in automation to close the loop between the prescribing and administration of medicines.

He commented; “This is a significantly better and safer way of dealing with ward medicines. The risk to patient safety is lower as we have reduced our dependence on manual processes. It provides a safety net, reduces the risk of products being wrongly selected and near misses. Integrating the ward based systems with EPMA only strengthens that level of security. It helps us in our drive to ensure that patients receive the right medicines at the right time.”

Following its launch at CPC, Omnicell’s SAFE campaign will include a number of other activities to raise awareness of automation across the NHS including:
The development and distribution of educational materials for healthcare professionals
Advertising & educational features in trade press
Social media campaign #SAFE

Paul O’Hanlon, Managing Director for Omnicell comments; “At Omnicell we are passionate about improving the standards of care across all healthcare settings. We draw on 20 years’ experience in ensuring the health and safety of patients through reliable medication management systems. Yet we are concerned at the staggering level of medication errors across the NHS and hope our new SAFE campaign goes some way in throwing the spotlight on the issue and helps to drive real change.”

For further information about the campaign and/or to learn about how effective medication management systems can support your organisation please visit

 1. Official figures from NHS Improvement. The NRLS is a voluntary national reporting and learning system used by the NHS Improvement national patient safety team to identify emerging risks and issues that could require action at a national level to protect patients from harm (click here)