The East Mercia Urology Alliance sees United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust bring together urology expertise into a single department. It is thought to be the first time hospitals from different NHS trusts have come together in this way to offer robotic assisted surgery.
Urology Consultant Aristeidis Alevizopoulos, who is employed by both Trusts, performs the robotic assisted surgeries at Leicester. He said: “Through the alliance patients from all across the region will be assessed and helped by a central joint team who will identify the best treatment for them.
“The experience for our patients is better as there is less time waiting for referrals and those from Lincolnshire will have access to treatments that they could only previously have received privately as we did not have access to the high-tech machinery in Lincolnshire.”
One such treatment is the use of robotic assisted surgery, which is used for bladder cancer and prostate cancer.
Mr Alevizopoulos added: “Previously at ULHT patients treated for prostate cancer would have either an open radical prostatectomy or laparoscopy. With the new alliance we can offer them robotic surgery. This is a better treatment for patients with organ confined prostate cancer, as it combines the surgical precision of the robot with excellent oncologic and functional outcomes. Plus there is a reduced need for blood transfusion, less post-operative pain and a shorter inpatient stay.
“Patients who are offered robotic surgery at Leicester will only need to travel to Leicester twice, once for their pre-assessment and a second time for their operation, with an expected inpatient stay of 1-2 days, compared to the average four day stay for an open radical prostatectomy. Follow up appointments will then be held at Lincoln.”
64-year-old Michael Couzens was one of the first patients from the county to undergo the robotic surgery for prostate cancer. He said: “When I was first told it was cancer I was in shock and feared the worst, but after speaking to Mr Alevizopoulos and the team I was reassured and felt so lucky to be able to have the robotic assisted surgery. He told me my options and I came away knowing that this was what I wanted to do.
“The surgery went well and there was a real buzz around the team who treated me. I have now only got six small keyhole incision scars rather than the surgeons having to open me right up for the traditional surgery. I am just so grateful to have been given the opportunity to be able to choose this type of surgery.”
ULHT Medical Director Dr Neill Hepburn added: “The whole idea was to join forces to give our patients access to robotic surgery. It also gives us the opportunity to learn from other teams and to welcome Mr Alevizopoulos to the team at Lincoln.
“He will be seeing our patients locally and give those who are suitable the option to have robotic surgery. Without this partnership we would have struggled to offer this type of surgery to our patients in the foreseeable future.
“This partnership started two years ago and now our first patients are able to go and have robotic surgery which our own surgeon is performing and all their follow up appointments can take place closer to home in Lincoln.”
Urology Nurse Consultant Zina Bojin added: “This is a huge development for the Trust and a huge achievement. We are all very excited and looking forward to working as part of the alliance and sharing expertise and practices with our colleagues from Leicester.
“Our patients want what is best and they are happy to travel that little bit further to get to the machine. Everything else will be done in Lincoln, even the surgeon who did the surgery is here.”