Dad’s tribute as girl loses fight for life after being taken abroad for treatment on brain tumour not available on NHS

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1 Kaleigh Lau

The father of an eight-year-old girl taken abroad for treatment for a deadly brain tumour today paid tribute after she lost her fight for life.

Scott and Yang Lau, from Woodford Green, spent £250,000 on a pioneering therapy for daughter Kaleigh in Mexico after being told the NHS had run out of options.

They believe it prolonged her life by more than a year, enabling them to enjoy many happy times between treatment while campaigning for more research into childhood brain tumours.

Kaleigh was diagnosed in April 2016 with a rare DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) tumour after experiencing double vision.

She died on Tuesday last week, June 12. She had fallen into a “deeply unconscious state” in early May and spent her last weeks at Great Ormond Street hospital.

Mr Lau told the Standard: “We were always up against it from the beginning. No other child has survived it. The fact we got to 25 months [from diagnosis] shows she is incredible. She is a fighter.

“We are glad she is in a better place now. She has no more doctors, no more hospitals, no more needles. We couldn’t be prouder parents.”

In April last year Kaleigh became the first European child to receive the treatment, intra-arterial chemotherapy infusion and immunotherapy, at the clinic in Monterrey.

She received 14 treatments over the course of nine trips to Mexico. Normally children live on average nine months after diagnosis.

Her deteriorating health meant the family were forced to abandon plans to return to Mexico for another round of treatment.

A private funeral on Wednesday next week will be followed by a celebration of her life on Saturday June 30.

Mr Lau said: “We want to continue to help other children and help to find a cure.

“If we didn’t go to Mexico, we would not have made the memories we did. We would not have had that hope. Mexico prolonged her life by more than a year.”

Her family’s MP Wes Streeting, who raised Kaleigh’s case in Parliament and with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said: “The best way we can honour Kaleigh’s memory is to make the UK the world leader in research into childhood brain tumours like DIPG so that no child and no family have to go through what Kaleigh and her family have been through.

“Her family have been nothing short of heroic, not only providing all the love and care that Kaleigh could wish for, but also supporting many other families coping with DIPG around the world.”

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Throughout their own extraordinarily painful journey, the Laus have done so much in the UK and around the world to raise awareness of the devastation caused by childhood brain tumours, which kill more children than any other form of cancer.

“We must find a way to spare families in the future from this heartbreak. No parent should have to hear that there is no cure for their child.”

*  An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.

 

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ID-checking of London patients branded waste of time after just 50 out of 8,894 were not entitled to free NHS care

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A pilot scheme set up by Jeremy Hunt to check whether patients were entitled to free NHS care found only a tiny number were ineligible, the Standard can reveal.

Figures from London hospitals who asked 8,894 people for two forms of ID prior to treatment showed only 50 – or one in 180 – had to pay for their care.

Campaigners today called on the Government to abandon any plans to extend the pilot nationwide as they branded the attempted crackdown on “health tourism” a “waste of time”.

ID pilots

Dr Jessica Potter, of Docs Not Cops, said: “People who are most likely to be charged are the least able to pay. There is no evidence it saves the NHS an appreciable amount of money.”

The ID-checking pilots ran in selected areas in 18 NHS trusts, of which 11 were in London, for about two months last autumn.

No patients were refused care but there was widespread concern that many, such as vulnerable “undocumented migrants”, potentially suffering from life-threatening or contagious diseases, could be deterred from seeking medical help. Doctors held a protest outside St Thomas’s hospital as the trials started.

All people attending A&E departments, including overseas patients, are entitled to free emergency care. Non-UK nationals are charged for non-urgent care or the costs are reclaimed under reciprocal agreements with EU nations. Health Secretary Mr Hunt said he wanted the pilots to help “chargeable patients to make more informed choices about whether they continue to seek care in England when the cost is made clear”.

Barts Health asked 2,752 patients attending outpatient renal clinics at the Royal London hospital for ID. Two were found ineligible for free treatment and billed a total of £2,500.

It also found 17 of 1,497 maternity patients at Newham hospital ineligible and billed them £104,706. Inquiries continue into a further 77 patients.

Barts Health said it had continued to ask for up-front ID in these departments but had shelved plans to extend the checks to maternity and orthopaedics at the Royal London.

Dr Ron Singer, chairman of Newham Save Our NHS, said the trials were “part of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy” that resulted in uproar over the treatment of Windrush migrants.

He said: “What’s also a concern is the stress this places on NHS staff. It’s very unclear whether everybody going for a service is asked for ID, or only people with ‘foreign’ names or ‘coloured’ faces.

“If you go to Newham hospital you will see huge signs saying you may not be eligible for free NHS treatment. The hostility is right in your face.”

St George’s, in Tooting, which at one stage was owed £5 million by overseas patients, screened 1,660 maternity patients over five months. Eighteen were found to be ineligible and were billed a total of £45,000. It also carried out checks on neurology and neurosurgery patients.

Imperial College Healthcare trust, which runs St Mary’s, Charing Cross and Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea hospitals in west London, ran checks in its maternity and renal departments.

It said: “Over the three months, 985 patients passed through the pilot areas. Sixteen of these patients were referred to the trust’s overseas visitor team for further enquiries and one patient was identified as being chargeable.”

Barking, Havering and Redbridge trust screened 1,021 women attending maternity at Queen’s hospital. Eleven were ineligible and were each billed £6,500. It has since abandoned the checks.

King’s College hospital checked 979 ophthalmology and orthopaedics patients. One was chargeable and a further 13 are undergoing extra checks.

The Royal Free ran checks for two months in A&E but said it had not retained details of how many were asked for ID.

Guy’s and St Thomas’, UCLH, Chelsea and Westminster, London North West Healthcare and Hillingdon refused to release details or did not respond to several requests for the information.

Dr Potter said: “Given the hostile environment at the moment, people are put off seeking help when they are unwell. They are worried about being charged and not being able to afford it. That is bad for the individuals and bad for public health.”

The Department of Health and Social Care declined to say whether upfront ID-checking would be abandoned in light of the trial.

It said: “The NHS is a national, not an international, health service and it’s only fair that hospitals make sure those not eligible for free care contribute to the cost of treatment they receive.

“ID checking is not a requirement of our charging regulations, but has proven to be helpful in some circumstances, which is which is why we trialled it across some NHS sites in England.”

  • An edited version of this story appears in tonight’s Evening Standard

 

UCL to host world’s first academic conference on skateboarding

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Skateboarding conference

A London university is to hold what is believed to be the world’s first academic conference on skateboarding.

The three-day event comes amid a boom in the popularity of skateboarding and as the globe’s best professional skaters head to the Olympic park for a spectacular Bank Holiday weekend competition.

The Pushing Boarders conference, which starts next Friday, June 1, at University College London, will debate skateboarding culture, its social, health and economic benefits and the challenges of securing new parks and support from the mainstream community.

Thomas Callan-Riley, co-organiser of Pushing Boarders, said: “There are 50 million skateboarders around the world and only about 30 academics whose research relates to skateboarding. This event puts them all in the same room to work together on using skateboarding as a tool for social change.”

Professor Iain Borden, a skateboarding expert at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, told the Standard: “Skateboarding has changed massively over the last 15 years. A lot of people, when they think of skateboarding, think of California dudes hanging round swimming pools in the 1970s, or very counter-culture street skaters sticking two fingers up to society in the 1990s. These things still happen, but skating has become a lot more plural than that.

“I’m 55 and I still skate. I have been skating for 40 years. What skateboarding is about has changed. It’s seen to connect to people’s everyday lives in a way that other leisure or sporting activities don’t. The kids you see at skate parks are often the kids who don’t want to get involved in team sports. I think it fits in with people’s modern lifestyles now.

“One of the things we want to explore at this conference is the health benefit of skating. It encourages you to be independent and robust. It teaches you not to be afraid of failure. It’s about building resilience and confidence. It’s a route to connect with some kids in some pretty difficult situations.”

Elissa Steamer, the first woman to become a professional skater, will discuss the impact of urban spaces – predominantly designed by men – on female skaters.

Another speaker, Lucy Adams, chair of Skateboard England, the sport’s national governing body, said: “I’m grateful I’m going to be among so many like-minded individuals. I think there will be a lot of learning from how other countries do things.

“We have done so much learning over the last decade within skateboarding, but it’s still a new sport – it’s still in its infancy. In the last 10 years it’s really blown up.”

The conference will be preceded this weekend [26/27 May] by the world’s most prestigious skateboarding competition, the SLS (Street League Skateboarding) event, at the Copper Box arena, also known as the Box That Rocks.

It will be the first time it has been held in London and comes ahead of skateboarding making its debut as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

  • An edited version of this story appears in tonight’s Evening Standard

Royal praise for London Ambulance staff as ‘good’ rating sees service removed from special measures

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Prince William today praised the “dedication and hard work” of London Ambulance Service staff as it was lifted out of “special measures” after two-and-a-half years.

The LAS was rated “good” by the Care Quality Commission, the second highest rating, with frontline staff commended for continuing to provide “outstanding” care, the highest score.

LAS chief executive Garrett Emmerson said the day-to-day improvements observed by the CQC meant the country’s biggest ambulance service was better prepared than ever to cope with major incidents and terror attacks.

The Duke of Cambridge, in a video message for last night’s LAS annual staff awards, said: “The past year has been incredibly challenging for the city but has highlighted the vast experience and knowledge you all bring to your work, and the vital role that you play in providing compassion, commitment and empathy to Londoners every single day.”

The LAS became the first ambulance service in the country to be rated “inadequate” in November 2015, which led to it being placed in special measures. This was because of dire staff shortages and concerns about its ability to cope with a terrorist attack. Last year the rating improved to “requires improvement”.

Mr Emmerson said it was aiming for an overall rating of “outstanding” as he credited thousands of staff, including many “unsung heroes” behind the scenes.

He told the Standard: “We are better than we were before. We are a much more capable organisation in terms of capacity and capability. Will that result in a further improvement in our ability to respond to major incidents? I’m sure it will.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who also released a video message today, said it had been “incredibly humbling” to learn of the bravery shown by LAS staff who ran into danger during last year’s London Bridge terror attacks.

He said: “It’s very tough at the moment on the front line, [there’s] huge demand from patients, but the fact that you have achieved this shows that the impossible can happen.”

Professor Ted Baker, England’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “The improvements the leadership and staff of London Ambulance Service have made are especially commendable – and especially necessary – given the major incidents the trust has responded to over the past year, including terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

 

Cleaners, porters and security staff set to miss out on NHS pay rise

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Serco protest at Barts

Unite and Unison activists protest outside the Barts Health board meeting

 

Thousands of London’s lowest-paid hospital workers are set to miss out on the national NHS pay rise, the Standard has learned.

About 1,600 porters, cleaners, catering staff and security guards at Barts Health are ineligible for the rise, according to the Department of Health.

Unions say the “injustice” is will be repeated across London as many NHS trusts sub-contract non-clinical services rather than employing staff directly.

Announcing the proposed £4.2bn national pay deal in March, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was worth between 6.5 per cent and 29 per cent over three years, with the biggest rises targeted at the lowest paid.

It equates to an increase of more than £2,600 over three years for staff on the lowest NHS pay band.

Mr Hunt said: “Rarely has a pay rise been so well deseved for NHS staff, who have never worked harder.”

The Barts Health workers were transferred by the trust to private operator Serco in September 2016, and their pay was linked to the London Living Wage rather than the NHS’s “Agenda for Change” rates.

Unions representing the Barts Health staff, who work at five east London hospitals, said Serco refused to pay more than £10.20 an hour. By comparison, NHS staff in London will receive at least £10.83 an hour, rising to £11.17 an hour in inner London, if the national deal is agreed.

Ruth Hydon, Unite regional officer, said: “These are the lowest paid workers in this trust. The NHS deal has been agreed nationally to provide more for the lowest-paid workers.

“It’s an injustice health workers employed by Serco, who keep these London hospitals safe and clean, are being offered less than other NHS workers at the same hospitals.

“The Serco workers have suffered years of pay restraint. We are expecting to get that NHS deal now for these workers. Serco workers are expecting to get that increase. Our members hold the trust and Serco jointly responsible for what their pay is set at.”

The NHS deal applies to nurses, paramedics, midwives, therapists, dieticians, clinical scientists, chiropodists and radiographers. Doctors have separate pay deals.

A delegation of Serco-employed workers lobbied the Barts Health board last week, urging it to ensure pay equality for all workers.

Ian Peters, chairman of Barts Health, told them: “We absolutely recognise the contribution you make to patient care. We understand what you are asking us to do.

“It’s clearly a matter of priority and urgency. It’s clearly on the board’s agenda and my agenda. We will talk to Serco.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Serco contractors are not employed by the NHS.

“The pay rise is for NHS staff employed under the Agenda for Change contract and that is what [the Treasury] has agreed to fund – the Government has been explicitly clear on this since it was announced last year. Any pay rise for these staff is a matter for their own employers.”

Serco said: “We value the important contributions of all our employees and agreed with the Trust and the unions at the start of our contract that we would pay at least the London Living Wage at Barts Health NHS Trust, which is a commitment that we continue to meet.”

* An edited version of this story appeared in last night’s Evening Standard.

London hospitals unable to recruit more than 80 doctors and therapists from abroad due to visa restrictions

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London hospitals have been barred from hiring more than 80 foreign doctors and therapists due to visa restrictions, the Standard can reveal.

Barts Health, the UK’s biggest trust with five hospitals in east London, has been refused 35 visas in the last six months – 26 of them for senior doctors (see table below).

Barts visa 2

King’s College Hospital NHS Trust said 23 applications for doctor visas were refused between February and April.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ has been unable to recruit 17 top doctors, mainly at the specialist registrar grade, and a dental practitioner.

University College London Hospitals, which has nine sites in central London, has been blocked from recruiting eight doctors – despite making 19 visa applications.

The figures are a dramatic illustration of the increased challenge the NHS is facing to plug a shortage of home-grown medics.

An immigration cap restricts non-EU skilled workers to no more than 20,700 a year, and the number of “points” needed to receive a visa rises as places are given out.

barts visa 1

Since December, Barts Health has applied for 92 “Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship” for potential recruits but been granted 57 – 10 doctors and 47 nurses. (See table above.)

The 35 refused include 26 medical registrars, five occupational therapists, four physiotherapists and one other health professional.

Registrars are senior doctors just underneath consultant level. “They keep the show on the road,” one source said.

“We only go overseas for really critical posts. It’s not cheap to do it. When you find someone who is willing and ready to move but they can’t because there’s no visa, it’s really frustrating.”

King’s, which also runs Princess Royal in Orpington, had 16 out of 39 visa applications approved. A spokeswoman said: “Proportionally, fewer tier two visa applications for doctors were accepted by the Home Office during February to April 2018 compared with the same period last year.”

UCLH said: “Since January 2018 we have filed 19 applications for Tier 2 visas for eight doctors from outside the EEA and none have been accepted.

“We are aware that we are not the only NHS trust affected and we support NHS Employers’ representations to the Government to address this problem.”

The Standard recently revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May had overruled a plea from Cabinet ministers for more foreign doctors to be granted visas.

Last week Heath Secretary Jeremy Hunt backed a special visa system to help the NHS tackle staff shortages.

The 12 medical royal colleges, British Medical Association and NHS Employers have written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid pleading for the cap to be reviewed as it was “affecting patient safety” in some trusts.

Barts Health said the cap has also caused “confusion” among foreign staff already at the trust who may require a visa extension. It had also sent its bill for locum doctors spiralling.

Even the loss of one doctor on a rota can cause major headaches for a department, requiring other staff to work overtime to cover or locum medics to be brought in from outside.

A Standard survey has revealed that visa problems have been encountered by other NHS trusts.

St George’s was unable to hire two genetics counsellors. Barking, Havering and Redbridge was blocked from recruiting an anaesthetist. London North West Healthcare said it had problems at the start of the year and a minority of applications were rejected last month.

The Home Office said: “The Government fully recognises the contribution that international professionals make to the UK. However, it is important that our immigration system works in the national interest, ensuring that employers look first to the UK resident labour market before recruiting from overseas.

“When demand exceeds the monthly available allocation of Tier 2 (General) places, priority is given to applicants filling a shortage or PhD-level occupations. No occupation on the Shortage Occupation List — which is based on advice by the independent Migration Advisory Committee — has been refused a place.”

‘National treasure’ at Bart’s gets key role in 900th anniversary after surviving private hospital scare

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Great Hall at St Bartholomew's

The Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s hospital

Campaigners believe they have won a battle to protect a “national treasure” at Britain’s oldest hospital from being damaged by a new private patient unit.

They feared a proposed Nuffield heart and cancer hospital – in a building made famous by Sherlock Holmes – could have blighted the long-term future of the Grade I-listed Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, in Smithfield.

Now the Friends of the Great Hall, whose chairman is the Queen’s former surgeon-gynaecologist Sir Marcus Setchell, hope it will take centre stage when St Bartholomew’s celebrates its 900th anniversary in 2023.

The City of London Corporation is expected to grant Nuffield planning permission to convert the former pathology building and disused staff accommodation at  Bart’s later this month.

Barts Health, the NHS trust that owns Bart’s hospital, ran up a £117 million debt in 2017/18 and hopes the 30-year lease it has granted Nuffield will generate a “multimillion pound revenue stream”.

The five-storey building, in Giltspur Street, has been a shrine to Sherlock fans since the fictional detective, played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC TV drama, faked his death in a leap from the rooftop in 2012.

The Standard has learned that a compromise was struck, involving Nuffield amending its original plans, after legal action was threatened by the Friends of the Great Hall.

The Great Hall built in 1730, and orginally used for administrative meetings, has two giant Hogarth murals on its grand staircase, and ancient hospital archives in its basement. It is on the north of the hospital square, adjacent to the proposed Nuffield site.

The Friends were able to secure from Nuffield a commitment to build a lift, and catering space to enable greater use of  the Great Hall  for weddings, concerts and a range of other functions.

The Great Hall needs up to £20 million for renovation and Sir Marcus and the newly formed Heritage Trust hope to attract private donors to secure its long-term future. Barts Health is unable to divert cash to maintain the hospital’s heritage.

“There is huge potential for opening up the Hall and and its rooms to a wider public,” Sir Marcus said. “The 900th anniversary in 2023, five years from now is  an ideal time to launch a big fundraising campaign for these unique heritage buildings.”

Barts Health said: “The Great Hall, a special part of the hospital, will have a key role in our 900th anniversary celebrations of the founding of St Bartholomew’s.We will work closely with staff, patients and The Friends of the Great Hall in planning for this momentous occasion in 2023, ensuring we honour our rich heritage.”

Nuffield Health said: “We have received [in principle] planning approval to renovate the dilapidated former pathology and residential staff quarters. We have been working closely with the City of London and interested parties to address concerns raised throughout this process.”

Hostile Location, Location, Location as TV star braves Alps (and injury) to help raise £1m for brain tumour research

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Team BMS group led by Tom Bodkin from Secret Compass battle through the blizzards on the last day of the Everest in the Alps challenge.

TV presenter Phil Spencer overcame a broken rib and temperatures of minus 30C during the “epic challenge of my life” on a charity expedition to the Alps.

Spencer, 48, joined a 38-strong group of City bankers and their partners to climb 8,848m, equal to the height of Mt Everest, to raise almost £1 million for research into childhood brain tumours.

The Location, Location, Location star broke a rib during ski training a week before setting off. He was cleared to participate but warned by his GP to be very careful.

Phil Spencer 3

Spencer said: “It was painful at night but during the day, it was manageable and that was a massive blessing. The day it really hurt was as I crossed the finishing line.

“My team captain, Jerry, turned to me and gave me a massive hug and a big ‘Well done, bloody brilliant!’, and slapped me round the ribs. That was painful, that really bloody hurt.”

The four-day expedition was inspired by 10-year-old Toby Ritchie, who has undergone chemotherapy and two rounds of neurosurgery after being diagnosed aged five with a slow-growing tumour.

On reaching the summit, Spencer, a friend of Toby’s godfather, said: “Toby, we did this for you, and lots of people around the world with your dilemmas and challenges. This was our challenge. Good luck and God bless you.”

About 500 children a year in the UK are diagnosed with brain tumours but treatments have not changed for decades.

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Rob Ritchie and Phil Spencer

It was the second Everest in the Alps challenge organised by Toby’s parents Rob, above, an HSBC banker at Canary Wharf, and Tanya Ritchie. The first raised £3 million. The proceeds fund the Brain Tumour Charity’s research unit.

Spencer told how the party had to contend with exhaustion, blizzards and the fear of things “going very badly wrong” during the 5.5-mile vertical climb in Verbier, Switzerland, at the end of February.

“It was simply incredible and something I would never have though I would have been able to achieve,” he said.

“The challenging weather patterns made the expedition incredibly hard. The legs and body worked well but it was the relentlessness of the challenge that got to us.

“It was every single minute, from the moment you woke up until you went to sleep.

Phil Spencer 2

“Late in the morning of day two… we were staring up at a massively steep section of off-piste. It was crusty, icy and all of us were already tired and we knew there was no easy way of doing it. It was horrible.

“All of a sudden you look across the mountain and your team mates and the guides are spread out.

“You’re feeling on your own and you hit an ice patch and you look down and you think: if I slip now, I’m going to be in a whole pile of trouble.

“There’s nothing and no-one that could have helped me out of that. Everyone was aware that something could have gone very badly wrong.”

Team members and mountain guides who completed the Everest in the Alps challenge at the finish.

He added: “Hitting the summit was the ultimate elation. Everyone was tired, happy, emotional. It was a wonderful feeling, finishing such a remarkable challenge.”

* https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/thebraintumourcharity/everest2018

  • An edited version of this story appeared in yesterday’s Evening Standard.

More than one in four Londoners are teetotal – while doctors and nurses among those most likely to drink

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More than one in four Londoners are teetotal, a national survey of drinking habits revealed today.

A total of 26.6 per cent of people in the capital say they do not drink alcohol – the highest proportion in the country.

The Office for National Statistics said this linked with the capital’s ethnic diversity. More than half of non-whites do not drink.

Nationwide, 20.4 per cent of people – about 10.4 million people – said they did not drink, with teetotalism most common among 16 to 24 year olds.

The ONS’s annual survey of adult drinking habits estimates that 29.2 million adults drink alcohol.

High earners were most likely to drink. Almost 70 per cent in managerial and professional occupations – such as doctors, lawyers, architects, nurses and teachers – drank alcohol in the week prior to being interiewed by the ONS.

The figure fell to 51 per cent among those in routine and manual occupations, such as labourers, bar staff, lorry drivers, receptionists and care workers.

A separate report from NHS Digital found that during 2016/17 there were an estimated 337,000 hospital admissions primarily due to alcohol consumption, down 2,000 cases on the previous year.

There were 5,507 alcohol-specific deaths in England in 2016, a four per cent increase from 2015.

It is estimated there were 240 road deaths in Great Britain in 2016 where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit. This is 13 per cent of all road deaths.

New way of using surgical robots ‘could revolutionise prostate cancer operations’

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Prostate surgeon Prasanna Sooriakumaran: Procedure is revolutionising treatment for patients

A London surgeon is trialling a new method of using robots to treat prostate cancer that aims to encourage more men to undergo surgery.

Prasanna Sooriakumaran, a consultant urological surgeon at University College London Hospitals, says the new procedure is akin to a car mechanic going under the vehicle to carry out repairs rather than lifting the bonnet.

Early trials on 50 patients suggest it could be up to 10 times less likely to leave men suffering from continence problems after surgery.

Incontinence and impotence are two of the most common side effects of prostate removal, due to the risk of the surgery damaging surrounding nerves and bladder muscles.

Surgical robots are now used in the majority of prostate cancer operations, with UCLH leading the way with about 600 operations last year.

Mr Sooriakumaran, known as PS, said this could lead men to choose surveillance or radiotherapy and hormone therapy rather than surgery.

He said the “retzius sparing” procedure, which was first used in Italy and South Korea, could make surgery more appealing to younger, more active men.

Mr Sooriakumaran, who carries out most of the operations at UCLH at Westmoreland Street, in Marylebone, said: “Normally when you do the operation, you do what is called ‘dropping the bladder’ – you approach the prostate from above and move the bladder out of the way.

“It’s a bit like when women give birth. The pelvic floor is like a hammock and the support structure gets weaker. When the woman coughs or sneezes, the bladder drops and the woman leaks.

“With this new technique, you go towards the rectum and ‘look up’. It’s like being a mechanic lying under the car rather than standing over the engine and fixing things looking down.

“It’s technically more challenging – you are doing everything upside down – but you don’t damage any of the [internal] structures.”

He added: “It’s revolutionising the outcomes for patients. After the catheter comes out, 94 per cent have been dry within a week. Normally it is about 10-15 per cent.”

Prostate cancer is the second most lethal cancer in UK men, after lung cancer, and kills 11,800 a year. Only 7,000 men a year opt for surgery, which is normally considered “curative” unless the cancer has spread.

One patient, Howard Anderson, 66, a retired computer science lecturer from Woodford Green, underwent the procedure on March 21 after a PSA blood test raised concerns.

He said he was dry as soon as the urinary catheter was removed about a week after surgery.

He said: “I was delighted, to be honest. There was no problem at all. It’s perfect. The results are absolutely fantastic.

“Some of the older techniques, such as open surgery, looked pretty hair-raising. The literature from the hospital said that the outcomes depend on the skill of the surgeon and how many operations they performed. When I discovered it was PS doing it I was over the moon.”

Mr Anderson said he fear of being left incontinent was a “major concern”. He said: “But the alternative, which is six months of hormone therapy and two of radiotherapy, struck me as being far worse.”

  • An edited version of this story appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.