Surgical Da Vinci robot to stay at QA Hospital after appeal reaches target

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A LIFE-saving surgical robot will stay at Queen Alexandra Hospital after the community got together to raise a massive £2.4m.

Thanks to donations over the past six years, the hi-tech Da Vinci robot will remain in Portsmouth.

Mick Lyons, co-ordinator of the Rocky Appeal, with the Da Vinci robot. Picture: Martyn Roberts  clinical photographer

Mick Lyons, co-ordinator of the Rocky Appeal, with the Da Vinci robot. Picture: Martyn Roberts clinical photographer

From bike rides, walks, quiz nights, family fun days and personal donations, people from the surrounding area have helped with raising cash.

The Rocky Appeal, lead by co-ordinator Mick Lyons, has been campaigning to get the funds needed to pay-off the surgical equipment which had been leased to QA Hospital from American firm Intuitive Surgical.

Since its implementation at QA in May 2013, the robot has helped save the lives of hundreds of patients.

And today celebrates a landmark for everyone involved at the hospital.

It has been an incredible journey over the last 27 years, helping to raise millions of pounds for specialised equipment

Mick Lyons

One of the surgeons that uses the Da Vinci robot almost every day has praised the fundraising efforts to keep it.

Jim Khan, consultant surgeon who specialises in colorectal operations, operates on around 200 people a year using the robot.

He said: ‘This news is very reassuring for us. We had this equipment for years and we have been used to it.

‘It has always been a worry if we would be able to raise the whole amount.

Jim Khan, consultant surgeon; Mark Cubbon, QA's chief executive and Simon Toh, upper GI surgeon. Picture: Martyn Roberts  clinical photographer

Jim Khan, consultant surgeon; Mark Cubbon, QA's chief executive and Simon Toh, upper GI surgeon. Picture: Martyn Roberts clinical photographer

‘It would have been very hard on us as surgeons and as the patients too because it is very beneficial.

‘Really, it is down to the people of Portsmouth who have contributed to helped us keep the robot.

‘The robot has revolutionised the surgical treatment for most cancers.’

Mr Khan added: ‘There is no looking back for us now. This equipment helps people from all demographics with different types of cancer.

‘We can use what we learn in Portsmouth and make it applicable to the rest of the country, making a good case to the government for this kind of surgery.

‘Thank you to everyone who has contributed, you have helped a lot.’

Mark Cubbon, chief executive of QA Hospital, echoed Mr Khan’s thanks.

He said: ‘I would personally like to thank everyone in the community who has supported, donated and given their time to help make this happen.

‘We are humbled by the community support this appeal has received, and are hugely proud to keep robotic surgery here at QA, to ensure our patients can continue to benefit from this leading-edge technology.’

Originally set up in 1991, the Rocky Appeal was launched to raise £1m for a CAT scanner. To date, it has raised £13m for equipment at QA Hospital, in Cosham.

With Mick at the helm, the appeal launched its bid to purchase the Da Vinci robot in May 2012. It had until next month to find the funds needed and in the past 12 months has raised £700,000.

Retired police officer Mick said he it was a proud moment to see the robot paid off and staying at QA Hospital.

‘To me it has been an incredible journey,’ he said.

‘It’s wonderful that so many people want to help others and to do something that maybe their friends can’t do.’

He added: ‘Without the wonderful help from all the people around us it wouldn’t have happened.

‘Without the might of the local paper The News we’d probably still be battling away to get that money.’

A final fundraising walk from Eastney to the Still and West in Old Portsmouth will take place on Sunday at 10.30am.

The robot is used to treat patients with a variety of cancers like prostate, gynaecological, colorectal, kidney, bladder and head and neck.

Using the robot means patients have quicker recovery time and less scarring.

One patient to benefit was Derek Gillard, from Hayling Island. The 64-year-old was diagnosed with bowel cancer last July and had the tumour removed using the Da Vinci robot.

He said: ‘It is fantastic the Da Vinci robot is here to stay. I am very pleased because it really did have a big difference on my treatment.

‘It is great news that thousands more people will be able to benefit from this incredible piece of equipment.’

As a thank you, Derek and the rest of the Hayling Island Lions raised and donated £2,000 to the Rocky Appeal in December.

Derek added: ‘We wanted to ensure this piece of equipment was available to benefit other islanders and those further afield.’

Money from the Rocky Appeal will now be donated to Portsmouth Hospitals Charity which raises cash for different wards within QA.