Transport planners are bidding for the first UK trails to commence, utilising drones to carry packages between hospitals, GP surgeries and hospital labs. Medics claim that the technology could mean more accurate results, in time-sensitive situations. Transport planners have also said that the drones could be used to cover parts of the country which are hard to reach.
Solent Transport – a partnership covering four councils across the south coast – has drawn up the bid for a pilot scheme involving the NHS. The transport planners say drones could be used to transport packages between hospitals in Portsmouth and Southampton and St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, as well as from GP surgeries to hospital labs. The plans, covering Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight have been submitted in a bid for Department for Transport’s funding.
Drones Across The World
Drones are already being used in the developing world to deliver blood, in rural Ghana and Rwanda. In the United States, a drone has been used to transfer a live organ between hospitals. But planners admit that introducing them in Britain – especially in urban areas – would be far more challenging. The bid says these would be the first UK trials of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights using beyond-visual-line-of-sight operation.
A study examining the potential for drones in Southampton found that traffic congestion and log journey times are causing NHS inefficacies and needless costs. Solent Transport says one potential use for drones is transport of time-critical medicines and treatments.
“There is scope for trialling UAV delivery of chemotherapy kits to the Isle of Wight where patients currently have to travel to Southampton General Hospital for chemotherapy treatment on a regular basis. The concept would involve the transport of specialised kits by drone from Southampton to recognised locations where they would be taken to the patients home and administered by local medical staff.”
How Will It Work?
The first trials would use dummy payloads, with trials of live samples only getting the go-ahead subject to ethical approval, the bid says. It says the NHS services in other parts of the country – such as Dorset – have also shown interest in use of drones.
Rick Allen, operations manager for Southampton General Hospital’s laboratories, comments:
“As soon as blood is taken from a patients vein, the blood is ticking. We have four hours to get it from the vein to us and then we’ve got a couple of hours to process that sample. If we can be assured of getting samples to us quicker, then we can be that much more assured that the results are accurate and the correct result for that patient.”
Hollie Jamieson, Head of Future Cities at Nesta, an innovation foundation which carried out a study examining the potential of drones in five cities including Southampton, said:
“Our research showed that people did have concerns, the obvious concerns: privacy, security. Despite those concerns, the public are interested and accepting of drones when they are being used for publicly beneficial uses.”
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