UK’s National Health Service (NHS) says its cancer patients will be the first in the world to benefit from chemotherapy delivered by drone as part of a new trial. The drones are set to make their first flight in the coming weeks.
In a first-of-its-kind trial, 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. Drones will cut the usual delivery time from four hours to 30 minutes, saving fuel and money and making cancer care much more convenient for patients living on the Isle of Wight who often need to travel to the mainland for treatment at the moment.
This will be a remarkable achievement since some chemotherapy doses have a short shelf life, which makes them difficult to transport. In addition, each drone delivery replaces at least two car journeys and one hovercraft or ferry journey per delivery, saving carbon emissions and contributing to improving air quality for patients and the community.
Apian, a medical drone startup founded by a team of NHS doctors in training and ex-Googlers, has been roped in for the chemo drone delivery trials. The drone program will be trialed initially in the Isle of Wight, followed by Northumbria, and could allow clinicians to make “same-day orders” for vital medical equipment and other treatments.
“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,” said NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard.
NHS also began treating sickle cell patients with a life-changing drug striking a deal for the groundbreaking treatment, Crizanlizumab, which will be offered to up to 5,000 patients for three years.