Forth Valley Royal hospital is the first hospital in the UK to have robots on staff, doing day-to-day work. The BBC reports that a fleet of robots is being tested before the $445 million ($300 million) facility opens at the end of the summer. The team of machines is comprised of both 'clean' and 'dirty' robots, which will carry out their respective clean and dirty tasks without ever crossing paths.
The robots will be in place to carry clinical waste, deliver food, clean the operating theatre and dispense drugs. With their own special network of corridors underneath the hospital, these robots will be able to stay out of the way of doctors and nurses. By using separate elevators, robots performing clean tasks won't ever come across robots performing dirty tasks, which is a huge advantage in controlling infection.
NHS Forth Valley chairman Ian Mullen told the BBC that the new hospital would be "packed full of design features to improve patient care and improve the life of staff."
"Members of staff will use a hand-held PDA to call up the robot to move meal trays, or linen, or whatever. The robot will come up in the service lift by itself, pick up the item and go back into the lift."
Project manager Tom McEwen, who works at manufacturing company Serco, says that the robots will follow a set of pre-designed routes using laser beams which tell the robot it's position in the hospital. The machines can tell doors to open and sensors will let the robot know if a person or thing is in the way.
Though the idea is that the robots will free up staff so they can spend more time with patients, there will be 'at least one human' on hand should one of the robots break down.