Drone trial to cut delivery time of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy will be delivered to patients in 30 minutes thanks to a delivery drone trial being carried out in Hampshire.


The first of its kind trial will see chemo flown directly from the pharmacy at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust to St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, where staff will collect it before distributing it to hospital teams and patients.

“Delivering chemo by drone is another extraordinary development for cancer patients and 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,” said NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard. “As the NHS turns 74 it is clear that the pace of change and improvement across the health service is only accelerating as our fantastic staff seek to make the most of life-changing advances to improve patients lives as we promised in the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Chemotherapy is difficult to transport as some doses have a short shelf life, so the NHS said it partnered with Apian, a medical drone start-up, to develop a new way of getting the treatment to patients.

Drones will cut the usual delivery time from four hours to 30 minutes, making cancer treatment more convenient for islanders who often need to travel to the mainland for treatment. A further trial is planned in Northumbria.

Isle of Wight NHS Trust CEO Darren Cattell said: “We are still at a relatively early stage but the use of drones to transport medical supplies is a concept that has radical and positive implications for both the NHS and for patients across the UK as well as the Isle of Wight. It is great to be part of this innovative project”.

The trial is a joint effort between Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, Solent Transport, Southampton University, King’s College London, Skylift, Modini, the Ministry of Defence, UKRI and Apian.