Coronavirus: Royal Free Hospital pharmacists produce their own hand sanitiser in just four days after threat of shortages

Shubna Akhtar a and Louise Wraith from the Royal Free's pharmacy team with a bottle of the newly pro

Shubna Akhtar a and Louise Wraith from the Royal Free's pharmacy team with a bottle of the newly produced hand-sanitiser. Picture: Royal Free - Credit: Archant

Pharmacists at the Royal Free Hospital set up a hand sanitiser production line in just four days when it became clear there was a shortage of the key tool in the battle against coronavirus.

From identifying the issue to manufacturing the first bottles of sanitiser took less than a week. This would usually be expected to take as long as six months.

The Royal Free London NHS Trust’s principal pharmacist, Jasdeep Singh, said: “We saw there was a shortage and that it might not be sorted quickly so we had to do something to help try to stop the spread of the virus and protect people.

“There’s a lot about this crisis which is about innovation and being nimble.

“We were glad to be able to respond quickly to the issue.”

The pharmacy team used a formula for sanitiser provided by the World Health Organisation and is now producing 500ml bottles of the virus-killing liquid.

The previous week it had produced 20ml packs for individual members of staff.

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The hospital and external authorities were able to green light the process rapidly, and this meant production could begin.

Jasdeep added: “It was good to see that people understood the problem and how we could help to fix it.

“They worked as quickly as they could, being as pragmatic as they could without compromising on safety, effectiveness or quality.”

So far, 200 bottles of hand sanitiser, each holding 500ml, are available on wards across the trust’s three hospitals to minimise the threat of infections spreading.

In total 13 pharmacy staff were involved in the process, as well as colleagues in other departments including quality assurance and infection control, who ensured the solution worked and was safe.

Clarissa Coker, the quality assurance lead, and Alan Sebti, the manufacturing and procurement lead, together with support from Vicky Pang, the infection control lead, ensured a speedy process.

The trust’s pharmacists are able to produce medicines for patients and to replenish hospital stocks under a licence from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The Royal Free Charity continues to appeal for urgent donations to its Covid-19 Emergency Fund. For more information, visit