Addenbrooke’s surgical robot is a UK first 

Alistair Forsyth waiting for his robotic prostatectomy in the day surgery unit at CUH.

Alistair Forsyth waiting for his robotic prostatectomy in the day surgery unit at CUH. - Credit: CUH

A surgical robot at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is helping to cure patients with prostate cancer, enabling them to go home less than 24 hours after surgery. 

This the shortest hospital stay in the UK for the procedure, known as a robotic prostatectomy. 

It is being carried about five times a week in the day surgery unit at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH). 

The robot is operated by a highly skilled surgeon and removes cancerous tissue by making several small incisions in the patient’s abdomen.  

Not only is this less invasive, with less blood loss and pain, it means patients recover more quickly from their surgery. 

In the past with open surgery, the procedure needed a hospital stay of round 4-5 days.  

Now patients are able to go home the next day, freeing up bed space so more patients can be treated, helping to reduce waiting times and cancellations. 

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Mr Ben Lamb is a consultant surgeon at CUH and is part of the robotic prostatectomy day surgery team. 

The robot is carefully place in to position over the patient.

The robot is carefully place in to position over the patient. - Credit: CUH

Mr Ben Lamb, consultant surgeon at CUH.

Mr Ben Lamb, consultant surgeon at CUH. - Credit: CUH

He said: “I sit at a control panel in the operating room and guide the robotic arms holding the surgical instruments.  

“The robot gives me a high level of manoeuvrability and precision so I can target the cancerous areas without having to open up the abdomen.  

“This really benefits the patient and speeds up their recovery but it also means I can treat more people, as they need less time in hospital.”  

The surgeon operates the arms of the robot using a control panel.

The surgeon operates the arms of the robot using a control panel. - Credit: CUH

Once the operation is over, patients are cared for on the day surgery unit by specially trained nursing staff, freeing up an inpatient bed in the main hospital. 

By the next morning, patients are ready to be discharged, to continue their recovery at home. 

CUH day surgery operations manager Graham Johnston said: “For patients to be going home the next day after a major operation is a huge team effort.  


The robot operating on Alistair Forsyth at CUH, controlled by the surgeon

The robot operating on Alistair Forsyth at CUH, controlled by the surgeon and monitored by the theatre team. - Credit: CUH

“While the robot is vital in achieving this, so is the skill and dedication of the team.  

“This includes working really closely with patients before and after their surgery, to give them the support they need, extra training for the nursing staff and building on the outstanding skills of our surgical team.” 

One patient who knows at least some of how it works is 64-year-old Alistair Forsyth from Peterborough. 

He had a robotic prostatectomy at CUH on July 22, 2022.

 

Having been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and opted for surgery, he was among the early patients to experience the procedure.  

He said: “Knowing I would be home the next day made a real difference to me when I was weighing up my treatment options.  

“I want to be free of cancer and get back to work and my normal life as soon as possible.” 

Alistair added: “Not having to stay in hospital for several days also means someone else can use that bed space and they can have their operation too.” 

Today (Friday, July 29), a week after his operation, Alistair is due back at CUH to have a check-up and his catheter removed. 

The Da Vinci robot is used to carry out a number of other operations at CUH and was donated to the hospital by the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT). 

ACT is currently raising funds to buy CUH another robot.  

The £1.5 million appeal was launched in April last year and has already raised £1.36m through donations and pledges, leaving just £142,000 to reach the target. 

ACT director of fundraising, Claire Billing, said: “Another robot would enable even greater progress in world class surgery right here in Cambridge. 

“It would reduce waiting times and speed up recovery for patients.” 

Claire added: “A massive thank you to everyone who has helped us raise funds so far.  

“We can only reach our target with the support of our community of fundraisers and donors but together we can do this.”  

More information on how to donate here

Buy Addenbrooke's a Robot Appeal - Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (act4addenbrookes.org.uk) 

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) is one of the largest and best-known trusts in the country, delivering high-quality patient care through Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals.  

CUH is a leading national centre for specialist treatment for rare or complex conditions and a university teaching hospital with a worldwide reputation.