NHS chemotherapy drugs to be delivered by drone in first-of-its-kind trial

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National Health Service (NHS) cancer patients are to be the first in the world to benefit from chemotherapy treatments delivered by drone as part of a new trial.

The drones, made by the firm Apian, are set to make their first flight in the coming weeks, meaning that the lifesaving treatment can be picked up and dropped off to patients on the same day.

Announcing the major trial on the NHS’s 74th birthday on Wednesday, NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the drone deliveries were just the latest “extraordinary” year for NHS innovation and cutting-edge technology.

In a first-of-its-kind trial, starting on the Isle of Wight, chemo will be flown directly from the pharmacy at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust to St Mary’s Hospital, where staff will collect it before distributing it to hospital teams and patients.

Chemotherapy is difficult to transport as some doses have a short shelf life, so the NHS has partnered with tech company Apian to come up with a new way of getting the treatment to patients in record time. Drones will cut the usual delivery time from four hours to 30 minutes,

Pritchard said: “Delivering chemo by drone is another extraordinary development for cancer patients and shows how the NHS will stop at nothing to ensure people get the treatment they need as promptly as possible – while also cutting costs and carbon emissions.

“From a smartwatch to manage Parkinson’s to revolutionary prostate treatments and making the most expensive drug in the world available to NHS patients, it has been another amazing year of innovation in the way the health service delivers treatment and care."

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