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Community championed as £1 million keyhole operating theatre opens

11 October 2017

Health Care

Community spirit is something that is often said to be lacking these days. That’s clearly not the case in Southend as, thanks to the amazing fundraising work of local people, Southend University Hospital has just officially opened its £1 million theatre. Its £500,000 laparoscopic equipment was all paid for by charity donations.

Cementing its position as the Cancer Centre for Essex, the brand new state-of-the-art theatre means Southend Hospital can perform the latest and most complex keyhole procedures for patients undergoing cancer and general surgery. At the heart of the new theatre will be some of the most advanced camera systems in Europe, which deliver extremely high quality 3D images.

Crohn's Disease patients have already undergone successful laparoscopic surgery in the theatre and patients suffering with bowel and prostate cancer or gynaecological conditions will also benefit. 

Mr Mike Dworkin, Consultant Surgeon at the Trust, said: "So far we have used the theatre for cancer, ulcerative colitis, crohn's, diverticular operations and radical prostate surgery.

"Many of these patients would have previously had to have 'open' surgery' which would have meant longer hospital stays and recovery times, and greater post-operative pain and scarring.

"The great news for patients is we have now got faster set up times for surgery and quicker change over between cases and have the equipment to carry out on table colonoscopy, which will make cancer surgery more accurate.

"For the first time all the systems in the operating theatre will be under the central control of touch panels and the new equipment will be free of pipes, tubes and wiring.

"We can now bring digital x-rays and body scans to the screens and record operations for education purposes, dramatically enhancing the teaching process for training our own staff or using the two-way video conferencing to beam operations and training to hospitals or conferences across the world. All of which will continue to grow and enhance the reputation of Southend Hospital and its staff, not just nationally but internationally."



The community aspect of the project is further strengthened as it was designed and built by Olympus, based in Southend, and supported in media partnership with both the Echo and Radio Essex.

It's very fitting then that the centre has been officially titled the 'Colin George Laparoscopic Theatre', after former Trustee of the Charitable Foundation Colin George, who sadly passed away aged 77 in July 2015. A huge local figure for good who helped raise millions for the hospital and launched the Keyhole Cancer Appeal for this theatre back in 2014.

His wife, Pamela, from Hadleigh, and their children, Stephen, from Southend, and Christine, from St Albans, were there to officially open the theatre and unveil a plaque to commemorate the event.

Pamela said: "Colin would have been delighted at seeing this theatre completed, it looks wonderful. He would have been truly honoured to have seen it named after him for all he did for the hospital, and that he was so highly regarded. We are immensely proud of him and although it is a hugely emotional day of both sadness and joy, we couldn't be happier to have this Laparoscopic theatre named after Colin as a fitting and lasting legacy."

Mick Thwaites, who took over Colin's role, said: "We launched the Keyhole Cancer Appeal in 2014 with the Around the World in 80 Days cycle challenge which raised over £30,000 and gave us a wonderful kick-start to the Appeal. Thank you also to the cyclists who formed part of our Ride100 charity team and successfully cycled 100 miles from Surrey to London. And of course not forgetting those who bared all for the naked rollercoaster fundraiser at Adventure Island in 2015, who raised £20,000.

"So many of our supporters have gone to extraordinary lengths over the last few years to help us reach our target. From skydives and abseils to quiz nights, fairs and dinner dances. We are grateful to all of the individuals who have taken on personal challenges and the local groups such as the Rotary Clubs of Thorpe Bay, Leigh-on-Sea and Westcliff, who have held fundraising events on our behalf. It has all led to this amazing theatre, something we could not have done without the local community."

Senior Product Manager for Systems Integration at Olympus, David Gillett, said: "By installing a new theatre with the latest technology, the hospital is able to offer the very best environment for their clinical team, providing significant benefits such as improved theatre efficiency and patient outcome."

Clare Panniker, Chief Executive of Southend University Hospital, said: "I would like to say thank you to Southend Hospital Charitable Foundation and the supporters of the Keyhole Cancer Appeal for helping us to build this wonderful laparoscopic theatre. I know I speak on behalf of the surgical team when I say how delighted we are to be able to deliver first class patient care, using the very latest technology and in the best possible surroundings."