Plans to offer patients in Worcestershire improved access to state of the art robot-assisted surgery have taken a significant step forward.

The installation of a surgical robot at the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch, is part of a wider programme of investment in the future of the Alexandra as a surgical centre of excellence.

The robot will be a further addition to the range of high quality elective (planned) surgical services already provided there for patients from across Worcestershire and beyond.

Senior clinicians aim to begin providing robot assisted surgery at the Alexandra later this year, after the Board of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust backed their updated business plan for the new service.

The Trust, which manages the Alexandra as well as Kidderminster Treatment Centre and Worcestershire Royal Hospital, has set out a clear vision for developing the Alexandra as part of its wider clinical services strategy.

Thanks to the generosity of local supporters, a fundraising appeal in aid of robotic surgery had already raised around £500,000, before plans for the development were paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A detailed implementation plan covering the installation of the robot, as well as the building work, recruitment and training needed to get the service up and running is now being finalised, with an investment of around £3.6 million.

The first procedure to be offered by the new service will be robot-assisted prostate surgery for men with prostate cancer.

Surgeon Mr Terng Chen, the Trust’s clinical service lead for Urology, explains: “We have been working for several years to bring robot assisted surgery for prostate cancer patients to Worcestershire. This latest progress is great news for our patients and our service.

“For those patients who are able to have it, Robotic-assisted Radical Prostatectomy (RARP) can offer equivalent or better outcomes, less pain, shorter stays in hospital and quicker recovery for patients with prostate cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in men.

“Currently, any prostate cancer patient from Worcestershire who wants this type of surgery as part of their treatment has to travel out of the county for it. That means around 80 patients a year having to travel away from Worcestershire for their operation.’

Mr Stephen Goodyear, the Trust’s Divisional Director for Surgery, adds: “Although the first phase of the new service will focus on urological surgery, there is huge potential to further increase our range of robot-assisted surgical procedures in future.

“As well as offering state of the art care for our patients, this new facility will also help to make our Trust an even more attractive place to work or train for clinical staff from a wide range of roles and specialties including surgeons and theatre practitioners.”

Matthew Hopkins, Chief Executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, says: “This development is a vital part of our plans for the future of our services and our hospitals and a further demonstration of our commitment to providing the best experience of care and outcomes for our patients.

“I would like to thank all the colleagues who have worked so hard on this completely updated business case for their determination and focus on putting patients first. I also want to thank all our fundraisers for their generous support – and for their patience because it has taken us longer than originally hoped to get to this stage, not least because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is more work still to be done before the first patient can receive their robot assisted surgery in Worcestershire, but we remain on course to have the service running before the end of this year.

“We are still having to focus a significant amount of time and effort to respond to the Covid pandemic, while also dealing with enormous pressure on our urgent and emergency care services and striving to provide timely care for the growing numbers of patients on our waiting lists.

“We are investing in a number of major service developments across all our sites to help us further improve the quality of care we provide. Bringing robot assisted surgery to Worcestershire is an important part of these improvements.”