UK’s chemo drone delivery program is finally ready for take-off

UK drones hospital transport

Britain’s 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 chemo drone delivery program, which has seen many delays since it was first announced in 2021, is finally gearing up to make its first flight in the coming weeks.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard explains that the first-of-its-kind trial will start on the Isle of Wight. 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.

Using drones will cut down the usual delivery time from four hours to 30 minutes. This will be a remarkable achievement since some chemotherapy doses have a short shelf life, and hence, are difficult to transport. In addition, each drone delivery will replace 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.

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Apian, a startup founded by a team of NHS doctors in training and ex-Googlers, has been roped in for the chemo drone delivery trials. The program’s success could allow clinicians to make “same-day orders” for vital medical equipment and other treatments as well.

Pritchard hails delivering chemo by drone as an “extraordinary development for cancer patients” that 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.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid adds

I want England to become a world leader in cancer care and using the latest technology to deliver chemo by drone means patients will have quicker, fairer access to treatment no matter where they live.

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