Robots to do hospital's dirty work

A fleet of robots is to carry out day-to-day tasks at an NHS hospital, it was revealed today.

The robots will be used to transport clinical waste and dirty linen, deliver food and dispense drugs at the new Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Stirlingshire.

They are currently being tested at the £300 million hospital ahead of its opening in August.

It is the first time a UK hospital will use the state-of-the-art technology, which is already in place in hospitals in Japan, the US and France.

The robots will run along their own dedicated network of corridors underneath the hospital.

Human staff will call the robot when it is needed using a hand-held personal digital assistant (PDA) system.

The robot will then make its way to a lift, collect or deliver its item and return to the lift.

It is fitted with a laser beam system to detect where it is and sensors to pick up whether there is something in its way.

The fleet will be divided into "clean" and "dirty" tasks, with each being given their own corridor to avoid the risk of cross- contamination.

NHS Forth Valley spokesman Elspeth Campbell said the new system would help with infection control.

She said: "Staff are very pleased. It is exciting to be the first in the UK to do this.

"We know they work well in other hospitals elsewhere in the world. While it is new, we aren't nervous because we know it is a system that works well."

She added that the robots would not be replacing humans, but would free up more time for staff to spend with patients.

The cost of the robots has been included in the total cost of the new hospital.