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Robotic Cancer Surgery Proves a Pandemic Success at the Royal Surrey

Published on: 7 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 11 Feb, 2021

A theatre at the Royal Surrey County Hospital equipped for robotic surgery

Last year, state-of-the-art robotic surgery improved life for about 600 patients with cancer or other serious conditions at the Royal Surrey, after two more machines were installed.

This news and images of the robots have been released to mark World Cancer Day, as clinicians urge anyone with potential cancer symptoms to seek their advice during the pandemic.

The hospital is now the first in the UK to have four of these robots, one of which is for training.

The robots are predominantly used for cancer surgeries and, in particular, prostate, bladder and gynae-oncology procedures. They are also operated by surgeons who specialise in oesophageal, bowel, liver and throat cancer procedures.

For patients, this means reduced trauma, thanks to the miniature instruments of the robots, fewer complications, less blood loss and faster recovery times.

During the first wave of the pandemic, the robotic team moved to a dedicated theatre in a protected area. Partnership has also played a vital role in continuing high volumes of cancer surgery in Surrey during this wave.

There are two dedicated cancer surgical hubs, one at the Queen Victoria Foundation Trust and one in Guildford, a partnership between the Royal Surrey Foundation Trust and the Guildford Nuffield hospital.

“The robots allow us to have a better view of the surgery…”

Matthew Perry, clinical director of urology, said: “The robots allow us to have a better view of the surgery, thanks to their high definition with three-dimensional cameras.

“We always get asked whether the robots are performing the surgery solo, but they are used in conjunction with a human surgeon who operates them.

“We have seen lengths of stay halved after a robotic surgery, compared to traditional surgery. For example, after a bladder cancer operation, a patient might expect to stay in hospital for two weeks, but using robotic surgery this is more likely to mean five days.

“By sharing more about the kind of innovative surgery during the pandemic on World Cancer Day we hope to remind people that if they have any signs of cancer or concerns, no matter how small, the NHS is here for you and you should speak to your GP.”

Louise Stead

Louise Stead, chief executive, Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance, said: “Our teams are doing a remarkable job of continuing to perform many complex cancer surgeries for people across our cancer network.

“Partnership working involving colleagues and organisations from across Surrey and Sussex is having a huge impact. It is just one example of the way healthcare teams across the region have been working together to make sure people can continue to access vital treatments as quickly as possible.

“We’ve put safeguards in place to protect people during the pandemic. If you need medical advice and have appointments with us, don’t wait, we are here for you.”

Professor Stephen Langley, professional director for cancer, added: “The willingness of staff to embrace new technology and practices to provide world-class outcomes for our patients is phenomenal.”

Angela Richardson

Angela Richardson, Conservative MP for Guildford, saw the robots during a virtual visit to the Trust. She said: “I was absolutely fascinated to watch the robots in action and tremendously impressed by the surgeon’s skills in the new techniques and equipment.

“The skill required to become a surgeon, even without the robots, is no mean feat. To then be able to adapt and acquire the ability to operate on a patient at a distance using a screen in the corner of the room is just astonishing. I was truly in awe watching this.

“I’m so proud of the hard work all of our NHS teams are doing and it’s great to see Surrey is leading the way with ground-breaking robotic innovation in surgery, dramatically improving outcomes for patients in our area.”

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