Robot Arm peopleStaff and patients at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) have celebrated three years of saving and transforming cancer patients’ lives through robotic surgery. The state-of-the-art robotic surgery equipment, operated by a surgeon, carried out the first radical prostatectomy in Norwich on 18th February 2016 to remove the prostate of a cancer patient, and since then has been used on average four times a week to help save more lives.

The four-armed robot and console, which provides a magnified 3D view, is mainly used to carry out robotic assisted prostatectomies. However, it has also carried out bladder removal (cystectomy), partial kidney and kidney removal (nephrectomy) and colorectal surgery.

Any cancer patient opting for prostate removal is treated using the robot and are usually discharged the day after surgery. Eight surgeons at NNUH have been trained to use the robot, and surgery usually takes four to six hours depending on the cancer site. NNUH was the seventh fastest hospital in the UK to complete 750 cases.

Mark Rochester, Consultant Surgeon in Urology, said the use of the robot to do keyhole surgery had resulted in improved outcomes for prostate cancer patients. “We are a busy hospital with a high volume of cases. To reach 750 cases in three years is very quick and is a symbol of our highly developed level of expertise in robotic surgery. Robotic surgery has helped us improve our outcomes and provide a better experience for patients. As patients come back to clinic for review we get feedback that their continence and erectile function are better than with previous surgical techniques. Patients are also able to get back to their normal day to day lives more quickly too. The dexterity of the instruments is unparalleled and more than 95 per cent of patients are able to go home the next day.”

Robot ArmNNUH was the first hospital in East Anglia to perform robotic colorectal cancer surgery which was in 2017. Irshad Shaikh, Consultant Surgeon in Colorectal Surgery said: “We have performed to date 42 colorectal operations for benign and colorectal cancers and have found reduced length of hospital stay for these patients after robotic assisted surgery and our patients are reporting a positive experience and faster recovery. “The range of movement with robotic instruments enables us to be more precise, which translates into better dexterity and provides superior access with multiple degrees of articulation, mirroring the human wrist.”

The Macmillan Integrated Care Pathways project has also expanded to people with Prostate Cancer. The project has been running in the Colorectal Cancer Service for over 12 months. It aims to deliver the Macmillan Recovery Package of an individual Holistic Needs Assessment, Care Plan and End of Treatment Summary to all patients before, during and after treatment and equips patients with the support and knowledge to manage life with and beyond cancer once their treatment at NNUH finishes.

The Macmillan Integrated Care Pathways team which is made up of four assistant practitioners and a project manager, contacts patients shortly after their diagnosis to carry out an Holistic Needs Assessment. This involves looking at all aspects of the patient’s life and working with them to ensure their physical, emotional and social needs are met. The team aims to help patients get their lives back on track and supports them with managing the impact of cancer. A further assessment is carried out near the end of the patient’s treatment. An End of Treatment Summary is then completed and sent to the patient’s GP, highlighting possible side effects following treatment and warning signs to look out for that require referral back into hospital.