Tuesday, June 02, 2015

This is too serious for monkeys

The folks of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust have drafted a rather odd looking monkey, Rocky, as their mascot in support of a fund-raising campaign:

The appeal is now aiming to raise £2.4 MILLION for a Da Vinci Robot, which will take surgery to a whole new level here at QA Hospital. There are only 14 Da Vinci Robots currently in the UK. This technology is not available at Southampton or Chichester, our nearest neighbouring hospitals.

Echoing the language from the manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical, they say:

The surgeon will sit in a console controlling the robot, in a 3D environment, at the patient’s side. This will enable more precise surgical techniques to be used, especially in small areas of the body such as the pelvis, head, neck and throat. Many hundreds of patients from Portsmouth and surrounding areas, the Isle of Wight and Jersey will reap the benefits. Patients being admitted for cancer problems such as prostate, gynaecological, colorectal, kidney, bladder and head and neck, will benefit from having no major open surgery thus allowing for a much faster recovery time and return to home and working life.

And even in a single payer system, the emphasis is on a competitive advantage:

We intend to make Portsmouth a leading international centre for Robotic Keyhole Surgery, and attract the best talents here to benefit our patients. We hope that you will share our vision, and if there is any way that you are able to help us, we will be forever grateful. Once we achieve our goal we will be one of a few hospitals in the country to offer these services, making Queen Alexandra Hospital one of the finest.

They seem to forget about the cost of disposables and the annual maintenance contract:

Thanks to all of our supporters, so far we have managed to reach our first milestone of £500,000 leaving another £1,900,000 to raise to reach our £2.4 MILLION target. To enable us to be in the forefront of Robotic Surgery we decided to have the robot now – however we still need to make regular payments so that we can keep it. To lose it would be a major blow to all patients now and in the future.

A lot of monkey business, if you ask me. These machines are expensive, and their supposed benefits are overstated and unsupported by objective clinical studies.  Your money could be much better spent elsewhere.

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