Cancer patients reveal the benefits of minimally invasive surgery at special event to mark the fifth anniversary of robotic surgery at Medway NHS Foundation Trust

Date: 04 November 2022

Da Vinci robot and control machine landscape version

Two patients have spoken about their quick recovery after undergoing minimally invasive surgery (MIS) surgery to treat cancer, during a special event to mark the fifth anniversary of robotic surgery being introduced to Medway NHS Foundation Trust.

James Virtue, whose prostate was removed after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2021, and Peter Jarvis, who had part of his colon removed after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2020, revealed how they were both back at home just days after surgeons used the da Vinci xi Robot Surgery System.

Since the system was adopted by the Trust in July 2017, 1,275 operations have been carried out by the robot – of those 1,084 were urology (prostate, kidney and bladder procedure) and 191 were colorectal (rectum, anus and colon) surgeries.

The MIS tool has revolutionised the care provided to patients undergoing urology and colorectal surgical procedures as it is able to perform complex and incredibly precise procedures, in a way not possible with human hands, under the control of a highly-trained surgeon. As a result, the system has replaced large incision abdominal surgeries (open surgery) with small incisions meaning patients experience less pain, go home sooner and have less chance of needing follow-up surgery or experiencing a complication, such as a postoperative infection.

As Medway is the hub of the West Kent Urology Cancer Centre, it means that urology and colorectal cancer patients across the south east benefit from this innovative equipment.

Speaking at the event, which was held at Medway Maritime Hospital last Wednesday (26 October 2022), Mr Virtue, 68, from Sittingbourne, said: “I went down for the operation at about lunchtime and woke up in recovery about 5pm. I had some slight discomfort but no pain or any other problems. I was moved to Sunderland Ward where the nurses looked after me admirably. Then by lunchtime the next day I was able to walk out under my own steam.

“In terms of my recovery after undergoing major surgery, it was incredible. I’m retired and I played my last game of golf on 12 January, I had the operation on 18 January and I was back playing golf on 20 April.

“Although I had a series of puncture marks, the biggest scar I had was two inches long, but now you would struggle to find the smaller ones.

“I often wonder what more I could have expected if I’d had the operation done privately and the answer is nothing. My experience was exemplary, and I’m very grateful for the treatment I received. Long live the NHS as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr Jarvis, 54, from Rainham, said: “When you’re initially diagnosed with cancer your world stops. Then your next thought is what are we going to do about it?

“In March 2020 I underwent an operation for a stoma pouch to be fitted, in April I started intense radiotherapy treatment and in July surgeon, Neil Kukreja, carried out robotic surgery to remove the lower half of my colon.

“When you’re a patient you put your life in your surgeon’s hands and you have to trust what they are going to do. Before I had the operation Mr Kukreja explained to me that there was a chance I could be impotent afterwards. I was 52 with a young wife and this worried me, but when I came round they told me it had all gone well.

“After the operation I was up and walking the same day. By day two I was able to shower, and on day four I was back at home. Because the op was so clean and precise I was also able to start the next stage of my treatment – chemotherapy, which then put me into remission. Without the robot and Mr Kukreja’s expertise I might not be here today.”

Professor Matin Sheriff, MBBS (Lon), PhD (Hon), FRCS, FRCS (Urol), FEBU, Consultant Urological Surgeon, and the Trust’s Lead Robotic Surgeon, said: “The reasons I went into medicine many years ago was to make sure every life matters, and lives have been improved and saved thanks to robotic surgery being introduced to the Trust five years ago.

“The NHS is a true gift and we need to cherish it and develop it further. My hopes for the future are that the Trust will invest in another robot and the development of a Kent Pelvic Centre, so other patients, not just those with cancer, can benefit from the robotic surgery system too.”

Jayne Black, Chief Executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Robotic surgery is a ‘team sport’ and requires buy-in at all levels of an NHS Trust to work effectively. Our surgical and operational team fully embraced the technology and as a result has implemented a safe and effective programme which has seen patient outcomes improve and the programme develop year-on-year.

“I’m proud to say that the da Vinci robotic training pathway has recently been accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons as one of the safest and most effective robotic training pathways. The team here at Medway have completed this training pathway and are now helping to teach other NHS Trusts along with Intuitive. 

“In addition, the Trust has also been recognised by NHS England for offering a gold standard of treatment to urology patients by using the robotic system – so there really is lots for us to be proud of here at Medway.”

A video of the fifth anniversary event can be viewed here. 

Designed and built by Intuitive Surgical Inc. da Vinci systems offer surgeons high-definition 3D vision, a magnified view, and robotic and computer assistance. They use specialised instrumentation, including a miniaturised surgical camera and wristed instruments that are designed to help with precise dissection and reconstruction deep inside the body.

The da Vinci Xi system features:

  • The ability to access all parts of the abdomen from a single port placement
  • Smaller, thinner arms with joints that offer a greater range of motion
  • 3D-HD visualization
  • Advanced technology such as integrated fluorescent imaging, stapling and advanced energy devices 
  • Intuitive motion to help scale the surgeon’s movements
  • Ergonomic design.

Here's some interesting facts about robotic surgery:

  • Every 26 seconds a surgeon around the world starts a robotic procedure
  • There are over 30,000 clinical studies to support the use of robotic surgery which shows significant patient outcome benefit.


  • Summary:

    Two patients have spoken about their quick recovery after undergoing minimally invasive surgery (MIS) surgery to treat cancer, during a special event to mark the fifth anniversary of robotic surgery being introduced to Medway NHS Foundation Trust.