Meet the latest staff member at this Holderness Road pharmacy - Hull's first robot pharmacist

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 13 Sep 2017

It's a concept which seems more at place in a sci-fi film than modern day life, but Hull's first robot pharmacist is changing the face of one local chemist.

Morrill Pharmacy, in Holderness Road, has officially reopened after a month's refurbishment to install its latest member of staff - 'Rocky' the robot pharmacist.

But you won't be greeted by a humanoid robot complete with arms and legs. 'Rocky' is a shelf with a basket, which picks up the desired medication and hands it out.

It's main function is to allow the human pharmacists to spend more time advising patients and carrying out medical checks, and to cut waiting times at the busy store.

Pharmacy manager Ben Chiruriri said: "It's already transforming our lives in the sense that the pharmacy jobs we used to before, it does them for us.

"It's freeing up pharmacists to go out there and speak to customers. That was our main aim."

And despite fears that Rocky's arrival might signal the beginning of redundancies at the chemist, no jobs are being lost because of its installation. Instead, Morrills, who serve 15,000 customers a month, are in the process of recruiting another two staff.

Mr Chiruriri said: "When we started the project some people had the idea that robots would be replacing people.

"But we're actually increasing our staff because of the high demand for the services we provide. We need them to relieve some of the pressure."

The robot is said to have 99.9 per cent accuracy with its dispensing. (Image: Peter Harbour)

Only trained staff have access to Rocky, who was named by customers, and can get it to dispense medicine in a similar way to ordering a McDonald's through its electronic checkouts.

The machine also detects sell-by dates, so it can prioritise medicine with a shorter lifespan and can reject drugs no longer safe to consume.

It also eradicates the risk of human error, with back-up procedures in place as a safety net in case of any errors.

Chemist customer Robert Sykes cuts the ribbon as the pharmacy is officially reopened. (Image: Peter Harbour)

Helene Fisher, territory manager at the robot's manufacturers, BD Rowa, said: "The robot will output by the barcode so it offers a safer service than manual picking because often items are packaged and branded similarly, so the robot means you will correct output.

"It's also faster than manual pickings so it improves efficiencies and reduces patient waiting times."

Mr Chiruriri said: "It is 99.9 per cent accurate. In a pharmacy safety is your main priority before anything else. We want to cut down our waiting times in the shop but at the end of the day we want to make sure that every drug that comes out of there is the right drug for the right patient.

"All the staff have been trained how to use it. We're still going to get one or two errors but they will be very minimal, if there's any at all."

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