Family visits hospital to see impact of £1 million legacy

Date: 22 September 2022

A state-of-the-art simulator for trainee surgeons to practise the skills needed to carry out orthopaedic arthroscopic joint surgery has been opened at Medway Maritime Hospital thanks to a £1 million legacy.

Ralph Barrett, a retired BBC engineer, had a serious motorbike accident during the Second World War and underwent 14 operations to save his leg. He was so thankful for the outstanding care he received that he left this incredible gift in his Will to the orthopaedic department at Medway NHS Foundation Trust.

Thanks to his generosity it is the only Trust in the region to have this suite of equipment.

His nephew Glenn Barrett, and his wife Hilary, recently visited the hospital to open the Ralph Barrett Virtual Reality Room which houses the simulator.

Jo Palmer, the Trust’s Chair, said: “We were delighted to welcome Ralph’s family to our hospital to showcase the impact of his legacy.

“The knee, shoulder, hip, and ankle simulator for arthroscopic skill training uses an original arthroscope, camera and other surgical instruments adapted for virtual reality simulation.

“The goal is to shorten learning curves and provide a seamless transfer of skills to the operating theatre. Virtual reality simulators accelerate the time needed to gain competency and use of original instruments provide a complete training experience and prepare users for real procedures in a surgical setting.

“We are the only Trust in the region to have this suite of equipment and we felt it was a fitting use of Mr Barrett’s legacy. His leg was saved by talented surgeons and we are using his gift to train orthopaedic surgeons of the future.”

The legacy has also funded arthroscopy equipment and surgical software for main theatres, an ultrasound for orthopaedic clinics and will be supporting the Trust’s new Same Day Endoscopic Spinal Surgery Service.

Alison Davis, the Trust’s Chief Medical Officer, said: “We are delighted to support the orthopaedic department’s Same Day Endoscopic Spinal Surgery Service.

“The equipment, to be purchased from this wonderful legacy, will allow the team to develop and implement a programme that aligns with Medway NHS Foundation Trust’s Patient First Improvement Strategy.

“Eligible patients will soon be able to undergo endoscopic spinal surgery and go home the same day. This will have such a positive impact on recovery and improve our patients’ lives.”

Ralph’s nephew Glenn said: “He was an amazing man. He had a terrible accident and was so thankful that he wanted to show his gratitude.

“I know he would be absolutely enthralled by this equipment because it’s electronic and he was an electronics man, so this is so apt really. It’s absolutely perfect so thank you for all of the work that has gone into this. I know lots and lots of people locally will benefit as a result of this equipment so we’re really pleased on behalf of the Barrett family, and on behalf of Ralph, to declare it open.”

Ralph Barrett died aged 93 in 2017. He was a member of the Special Operations Executive, dropping agents into Europe during the war and was a radio expert, going on to have a long career with the BBC.

He was largely responsible for Eurovision and the setting up of Eurovision links and the first satellite links with the USA.

When Ralph retired from the BBC, he had another career for two decades touring the country giving lectures on radios. These were not dry lectures. He made replicas of all of the equipment in his laboratory, as he called it, at home.

He was also a talented musician performing old time musicals at the Players Theatre in London.

  • Summary:

    A state-of-the-art simulator for trainee surgeons to practise the skills needed to carry out orthopaedic arthroscopic joint surgery has been opened at Medway Maritime Hospital thanks to a £1 million legacy.