Bespoke rules invented by hospital pharmacy staff reduced wastage of controlled liquid medications by 35%

A ruler-like device for measuring the volume of controlled medicating liquids, invented by two hospital pharmacy staff, reduced medication volume loss by 35% during a year-long pilot project at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust.

The rule was developed by Rosemary Griffiths, a Certified Pharmacy Technician and former Dispensary Director of the Trust, and Siobhan Abrahams, an Advanced Clinical Pharmacist of the same Trust, to fit a range of controlled drug vials.

A press release, issued by Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust on March 17, 2022, explained: “Unlike a standard ruler which measures length in consistent metric/imperial hatch marks, the markings on these rulers have been calculated to what they change depending on the bottle shape.

The leaders were first tested at Kettering and Northampton General Hospitals, which together form the NHS group of Northamptonshire University Hospitals.

According to the press release, using the tool has reduced unaccounted losses of controlled medicated fluids by 35%, “saving money and improving patient safety.”

The device had the potential to save the NHS £1.2million a year if used across all NHS hospital trusts, the press release added.

Griffiths explained that the idea for the rules came about when Abrahams showed her a cardboard ruler that she used to calculate the volume of controlled drugs inside each bottle.

Griffiths said that “lightbulb moment” then led them to wonder if they could come up with a rule that others could use.

Before that, Griffiths said: ‘Working at Northampton General Hospital, our audits showed unaccounted losses on medicines, and it was unclear why. It made me think that there must be an effective way to minimize it.

Griffiths has since created a company called eezycd, which manufactures and distributes the rulers.

There are currently 35 rule types available, with orders having been placed by 17 hospitals and healthcare facilities, including Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The company also offers an advisory service that alerts customers and issues an updated rule if a manufacturer changes the shape of a controlled drug bottle.

Emma Davies, an advanced pharmacy practitioner in pain management at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, said the innovation was helpful.

“The fact that they’ve been used in practice and been shown to reduce errors is an important factor for me – they’ve been tested and carefully thought through,” she said.

“I think anything that helps busy practitioners undertake controlled drug testing more efficiently, without having to spill the contents and replace them (which automatically reduces accuracy), and is extremely easy to use and understand , is a great idea and I wish Siobhan and Rosemary all the best in this endeavor.

Lillian L. Pena