Brunel University London: Medicine trolley’s been round and this one’s the latest model

Patients at a London hospital can expect fewer medicines mishaps after porters upgraded the shopping trolley used to shuttle drugs with a new set of wheels designed by Brunel University London.

The daily drugs round at The Royal Brompton meant hauling a supermarket trolley stuffed with prescription-packed plastic bags from the hospital pharmacy out to wards across two separate sites. Five times a day.

Hardly what the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda had in mind for their unwieldy contraptions.

Now a custom-designed, lockable and immobilisable medication trolley with roadworthy wheels and a surface to fill in handover forms is making that job a lot easier.

Co-designed by Brunel Design School and head pharmacists, it is a Brunel Design for Health collaboration using user-centred design to make safer, more intuitive, more effective products for the NHS.

Delighted staff took it for a test-run spin straight away, said Brunel Design School’s Dr Gabriella Spinelli. “It’s wonderful to have a real product in use in the NHS even if it is a one-off because you know it improves life for staff, nurses and porters.”

With centrally lockable, modular magazine compartments for different batches of bagged medicines, the £650 appliance also aims to cut the number of delivery errors. There’s a surface where nurses can sign delivery documents. It is designed for maximum manoeuvrability with customised ergonomic steering, brakes, wheel base and pivoting wheels to make it more road- and kerb-friendly.

Sponsored by the NHS, which launches yearly design challenges, the project began two years ago. Lockdown meant Dr Spinelli’s team – BA Industrial Design and Technology graduate Charlotte Willis and Senior Design technician Paul Josse – have only now made a prototype.

“It was exciting for the staff to influence design of a medicines trolley that would address the difficulties they had,” said Brompton Head of Pharmacy, Catherine Bouchard. “It’s a much more secure solution for delivering medicines to our wards and workable for indoor and outdoor use.

“We had tried a number of different commercial trolleys and had not found one that suited our purpose. There were no separate storage compartments, so storage in the trolley was cluttered, and most trolleys were not weatherproof. If staff find it easy to use, then we would like to see the design used on our other sites.”