Trust's new £2m robot will improve outcomes for cancer patients

Men suffering from prostate cancer can now get the latest surgical treatment in Northern Ireland, thanks to the launch of the Province's first ever robotic assisted prostatectomy service at Belfast City Hospital (BCH).

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 27th November 2018, 9:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 5:12 pm

The £2million Da Vinci Robot will perform surgery on up to 100 urology patients a year, focusing mainly on those suffering from localised prostate cancer, with capacity to include further treatments within urology and other services in the future.

According to the Belfast Health Trust, patients can expect a shorter stay in hospital, reduced medication, decreased blood loss during surgery and improved erectile dysfunction.

“This type of surgery allows greater dexterity at the operation site, which is particularly important when operating in the narrow male pelvis,” the trust said.

The £2million Da Vinci Robot will perform surgery on up to 100 urology patients a year.

The majority of the £2million funding was provided by the Department of Health (£1.8m), with the remainder generously donated by the Men Against Cancer (MAC) charity.

The service will be available to patients from across Northern Ireland and reflects the health sector’s commitment to innovation and reform.

Caroline Leonard, director of surgery and specialist services at the trust said: “By having this robot in Belfast we will be able to offer NI patients the same standard of service as those in the rest of the UK.

“We would like to thank Men Against Cancer and the Department of Health for financing the project.”

The Da Vinci Robot at Belfast City Hospital.

Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “This substantial investment of £1.8million by the department in the Da Vinci Robot is a sign of our commitment to transforming the health service. Innovation and modernisation will be key drivers of change and will greatly benefit patients by reducing waiting times and improving outcomes.

“Not only is the Department motivated and determined to lead the way in transformation, the health sector as a whole is committed to reform and there is a real energy among staff to embrace a new approach and new technology.

“This is a regional service, available to patients across Northern Ireland and I’m delighted that around 100 patients per year will have access to this advanced surgery. I’d also like to extend my thanks for Men Against Cancer for their generous contribution to this service.”

At present, this service is provided by Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, requiring patients to travel to access treatment. However, after the first robotic case was successfully carried out in the BCH earlier this month, it is hoped that within the next three years all robotic prostatectomy procedures delivered within Belfast Trust. In the meantime and while the system is phased into use, some patients will continue to be sent to Addenbrookes for treatment.

Eric Cairns, speaking on behalf of Men Against Cancer, who have kindly donated £200,000 to the service added: “We were aware that there existed a culture among men of masking or denying their illness which was leading to unnecessary distress and preventable cancer deaths. The creation of the clinic, the funding of research and now the contribution towards the Da Vinci Robot should encourage men to come forward in a new awareness that effective medical help and care are available.

“Men Against Cancer is immensely grateful to our thousands of fundraisers throughout Northern Ireland, whether they had charitable funds at their disposable, ran marathons or had whip rounds in their clubs, for their contributions in raising £1.5million over nearly 20 years. They should be rightly proud of what has been achieved.

“We are also delighted that the benefits of the robotic arm in City Hospital will be available for certain women’s surgical procedures.”

The capital cost of the Da Vinci Robot was £1,600,000, with other costs to support the functioning of the new equipment bringing the total spend to £2,025,000.