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04th May 2021
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Neath pharmacy gets disinfecting robot to help clean during COVID

A pharmacy in south Wales has a new addition to its automated family: a robot that uses ultraviolet rays to deactivate microbes in the air and on surfaces.

The Health Dispensary in Neath, which won Independent Pharmacy of the Year at the C+D Awards 2017, installed a dispensing robot in 2009 and added a 24-hour prescription collection point just over two years ago. Now, Ray the robot is helping the team clean the pharmacy’s air and surfaces.

Ali Sparkes, the Health Dispensary’s director of happiness and technology and a “self-confessed tech geek”, told C+D that the decision to buy an Evolve Raybotix NEO early this year had been “a bit of a no-brainer”.

Evolve Robotix robots use LiDAR technology to map an area and then disinfect the space and surfaces using UV rays which, like sunlight, kill microbes through exposure, according to the manufacturer.

“It’s great, it’s very easy to use now we’ve got used to it,” Ms Sparkes said. “It’s nice when you walk into a room because it releases some ozone as well; it’s got that almost swimming pool freshness.”

When they decided to purchase the robot, “we were getting very concerned about COVID-19 and keeping staff well, and obviously making the environment [as] safe as possible,” Ms Sparkes said. She was sold on the fact that “it can get into what they call dark areas or dark spots – obviously with a pharmacy you can wipe stuff down, but you can be there forever, because there are so many tiny boxes.”

“Minimising the risk”

Asked about the potential danger to human beings being exposed to doses of UV rays, a spokesperson for Evolve Robotix explained that “if motion is detected, the [sanitising] cycle aborts immediately – meaning that the process is completely safe, with no risk of contact between human and UVC light.”

They added that Evolve Robotix will be releasing a new feature in the coming weeks “which acts as a ‘cover’ over the UVC bulbs, enabling the unit to function safely in the presence of human movement – but the air surrounding the unit being continuously sanitised.”

With Ray the robot only able to operate when people are out of the room, Ms Sparkes was asked how using Ray the robot compares to other antimicrobial agents.

Getting Ray “may not be the complete answer for us [but] it’s about minimising the risk in everything we do”, Ms Sparkes said. Even if COVID-19 had not come about, she explained, in a pharmacy there was still a massive risk of infection during a typical cold and flu season.