Innovative new Medication Distribution Lockers at HMP Dovegate proving their worth during COVID-19

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A successful trial of a new and innovative approach to distributing regular medicines to prisoners, which has been underway in the Therapeutic Centre at HMP Dovegate, has been given new impetus by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Medical Distribution Lockers use a cutting-edge locker design with biometric access linked to the prison scheduling system. They allow prisoners to collect their ‘in-possession medicines’ without the need to be seen by a nurse or doctor, making social distancing easier and reducing the need for close personal contact.  

Medicine is considered ‘in-possession’ if a person (usually in a prison or secure setting) is responsible for holding and taking it themselves and therefore delivery via a technological solution is within regulatory requirements. This means that prisoners do not have to queue for these medicines, reducing waiting times for all prisoners.

Commenting on the successful trial, Hayley Peek, Serco’s Senior Health and Social Care Business Partner, said:

 

COVID- 19 has presented new challenges around the delivery of medications within prisons and there will be a need to consider new ways of delivering essential medication services to prisoners. This Medical Distribution Locker concept will undoubtedly have a role to play and be one of the many innovations which will support our prisons after already proving to be hugely beneficial in this pilot phase.”

 

The solution has been developed with Serco, who run HMP Dovegate on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, with its partners Traka, who provided the locker; Unilink who designed and developed the software and Care UK our healthcare partners. It was developed and piloted in consultation with a number of interested stakeholders including custodial officers, the healthcare provider, nursing and pharmacy specialists, IT, engineering, FM and prisoners.

Hayley Peek continued:

 

It is very encouraging that 80% of respondents found the lockers easy to use and we received some constructive suggestions for further enhancements.  

 

In prisons, the administration of regular medication is challenging for the people in our care as well as clinical and custodial staff.  The aim of the trial was to understand prisoners’ perception of the medication process and monitor changes following the implementation of a remote collection unit. The objectives of the pilot were to design and install a technological solution to enable the remote collection of In-Possession medication, assess the solution, and share Lessons Learned.

The excellent working relationships with our core partners and service users has meant that the initial findings are extremely encouraging.  As a result, the lockers will now be rolled out through the entire prison; this will be funded by the Prisoner Amenities Fund.”

 

Francis Toye, CEO Unilink commented:

 

Unilink is very pleased to be working with Serco, Traka and Care UK in a partnership to deliver innovative new ways of working”.

 

Justin Sasse, Head of Traka Group – ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions added:

 

Traka is delighted to be working alongside Unilink, Serco and Care UK introducing advanced systems to better secure, manage and renovate the future of medicine distribution in prisons."

 

Explaining the background to the introduction Hayley said:

 

In recent years the use of medication in custodial settings has increased.  There have been several factors behind this, including increases in prisoner numbers; an ageing prisoner population; the prevalence of poor health and long-term conditions amongst prisoners. This has taken place against a background of national increases in medication usage and changes in medicines classification of tradable medication.  Consequently, scoping of a safer more efficient technological solution was the most logical approach to improving care.”