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Celebrating our robots

More than 380 patients have benefited from reduced pain and faster recovery times since The Royal London and St Bartholomew’s hospitals welcomed two surgical Da Vinci robots a year ago.

In that time the hospitals have established a reputation as world leaders in Robotic Surgery. St Bartholomew’s has the only dedicated heart and lung (cardiothoracic) robot, and The Royal London is the fastest expanding multispecialty robotic service in the NHS and being used across six services.

Celebrating the anniversary, the teams held an event attended by patients, staff and health care partners from across the UK to show the difference the new £5.5million equipment - funded by Barts Charity - is making.

One such patient is Anne Bishop, 53, from London who was operated on in June using the robot to remove colon cancer. Anne is now cancer-free, and having chemotherapy to ensure all cancer cells are gone.

Anne explained: “This is the second time I have had treatment for colon cancer, the first when I was 25. Now, nearly thirty years later, I’ve recovered more quickly thanks to the robot and have less scarring. The less invasive approach is better for both your body and mind, and you can make a really good recovery. Even my GP is staggered at how well I look. I’m very grateful to the team.”

Patients and staff at both hospitals joined in the fun with celebrations also held during the day. Young patients from The Royal London’s children’s wards became robotic surgeons controlling the robots mechanical arms to complete games and puzzles, and hospital teams competed to complete dexterity games in the quickest time.

Elly Brockbank, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at Barts Health NHS Trust said: Robotic surgery is rapidly gaining momentum within the NHS and we are proud to be among the forerunners. I am delighted that our robotic assisted surgery programme is proving such a success.

“Our vision now is that the next 12 months will be even more successful, with even more patients benefiting from robotic surgery and us striving towards future surgical innovation to further improve outcomes for our patients.”

Using the robot means that patients undergo less-invasive surgery with reduced pain and blood loss. This means they often recover and go home more quickly and have less risk of experiencing complications.

For instance, people can now often go home the next day after their operation to remove lung cancer. And women requiring keyhole hysterectomy and operated on using the robot spend on average half the time recovering in hospital, just one night compared to two nights without the robot. 

Fiona Miller-Smith, CEO, from Barts Charity said: "We are extremely proud of funding robotic surgery at Barts Health NHS Trust which has already improved outcomes for hundreds of patients. The funding supports our joint ambition to provide innovative, state-of-the-art treatments for patients in our community and further afield."

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said: "It's great to see the progress that's been made in robotic surgery at Barts Health over the last year, and the benefits it is bringing to patients.

“I'm particularly impressed by the collaborative approach which brings together different specialists working for the best interests of their patients."

Dr Kathy McLean OBE, Executive Medical Director and Chief Operating Officer at NHS Improvement said: “I am encouraged that Barts Health has embraced robotics surgery for the benefit of both its patients and staff. This innovation will allow patients to spend less time in hospital, improve their recovery, and it will allow frontline staff to do more – all of which will be key components of the long-term plan.”

Jim Fitzpatrick MP for Poplar and Limehouse said: "It is wonderful that robotic surgery at Barts Health is proving so useful in delivering the best possible care to the people of east London."