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The University of Southampton

How transport planning can help hospitals become more efficient

Published: 13 February 2013

A new project from the University of Southampton is investigating how transport planning can help hospitals, such as the children’s specialist Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust (GOSH) in London, work more efficiently.

As part of his Engineering Doctorate, Gavin Bailey is working directly with staff at GOSH on the project, which also involves Transport for London (TfL), to assess hospital logistic practices and how they can be improved.

“I wanted to look at how transport issues affect health care,” he says. “I am analysing how hospitals get everything from linen to drugs and whether there are ways of improving this supply chain, setting up better systems and saving money.”

The project has led to two main developments, both with the aim of reducing traffic to hospitals. The first is to install an innovative ‘lockerbox’ system – a big bank of electronic lockers that use radio frequency electric code tags (like ID card entrances) to take collection of urgent items.

The lockerbox system uses an ‘Internet of things’ concept – connecting everyday objects and sensors to the Internet and ‘making them alive’. The system works where an urgent parcel is delivered to the box, the delivery driver scans the box and the parcel is then distributed to a specific partition once the door is closed, which acts as a confirmation that the parcel has been delivered. A text is then sent to the recipient that the parcel has been delivered and is ready for collection. A TfL study found that 21 per cent of business deliveries were for all staff.

Gavin submitted his paper about the lockerbox system at the recent Transportation Research Board annual conference in Washington.

The second part of the project is a new bespoke form of consolidation centre, where all parcels for a business are sent to a warehouse waiting for one main delivery. The aim is to trial the new concept at GOSH and then on a London-wide scale with London Procurement Programme.

“The work that Gavin has done has been vital in assisting GOSH in its planning for the many major events affecting the Trust in 2012 and will also form an integral part in meeting our commitments on sustainability,” says Peter Wollaston, Head of Corporate Facilities.

It is hoped Gavin's work with GOSH and other central London hospitals will be rolled out across London to the rest of the NHS.

Gavin, who has worked for both the London Underground and a major transport consultancy, is sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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