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Addenbrooke’s Robot Appeal reaches first major milestone

A £1.5 million appeal run by Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) to buy a surgical robot for Addenbrooke’s Hospital has passed the £250,000 milestone for donations and funds raised, following its launch earlier this year.

The fundraising campaign to buy the new surgical robot - that will mean quicker, less invasive surgery and faster healing and recovery times for patients – has inspired dozens of fundraisers to support in a unique fashion.

Many have taken part in the 1000 Challenge – asking if people can complete an activity a thousand times to raise £1,000 including:

  • Learning Welsh for 1000 minutes
  • Learning mandolin for 1000 minutes
  • Walking for a thousand minutes (16 hours 40 minutes)
  • Walking up a flight of stairs 10 times a day for 100 days
Buy Addenbrooke's a robot appeal

Buy Addenbrooke's a robot appeal


The robot will enable surgeons and their teams to operate on more patients, from people with pancreatic cancer to gynaecology patients, enabling them to recuperate faster and get home to their families more quickly.

Robotic surgery is a form of keyhole surgery involving small incisions where the surgeon operates on the patient by controlling a computer-enhanced robot, mimicking the surgeon’s hands and wrist movements, and allowing absolute precision.

The large 3D view of the patient’s organs enables surgeons to perform many types of complex procedures with enhanced vision, greater precision, flexibility, and control than is possible with conventional techniques.

The benefits of robotic surgery for patients are immense and can change patients’ lives. It can take months to recover from traditional, ‘open’ surgery but incisions made using robotic surgery are much smaller, reducing the risk of complications and infection, minimising scarring, pain, and discomfort and helping patients recover and return home more quickly. Following robot-assisted surgery, patients can be discharged from hospital within a matter of days, not weeks.

However, Addenbrooke’s currently only has one robot which is dedicated to kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer patients. ACT’s new appeal will help fund another surgical robot, that could revolutionise patient care across six specialities in the hospital including urology, gynae-oncology, gynaecology, lower GI (gastrointestinal tract), ENT (ear, nose, and throat) and HPB (Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary - diseases of the liver, pancreas and biliary tree) improving outcomes for many more patients every year.

One specialty area that could benefit is head and neck surgery, which can be very invasive and where some tumours are difficult to reach. This can lead to scarring that can be very distressing for patients. A surgical robot can access the tumour through the mouth with precision meaning that patients regain the ability to swallow much more quickly, can eat and drink without help, and need less ongoing treatment. ACT’s campaign to buy a surgical robot could help ENT patients get back on their feet much sooner after an operation.

We want to say a massive thank you to all those who have supported our appeal so far. It has been a magnificent response that shows how the public want to help the NHS at this critical time.

Shelly Thake, CEO, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT)
Alice and Stephanie's story

Alice and Stephanie unfortunately lost their mum Jenny in July 2020 to mouth cancer. The cancer started with minor symptoms that their mum went to the dentist to get checked out. She was subsequently referred to Addenbrooke’s for tests and treatments. Jenny was diagnosed with mouth cancer in early 2019 and underwent life-changing surgery and treatment. Her family wanted to recognise the treatment and support Jenny had at Addenbrooke’s after radical surgery to try and deal with the very aggressive cancer on her tongue and in her mouth.

Staff helped her to recover her speech and she was able to speak to family soon after her surgery, and they helped her to walk again after a major skin graft from her leg was used to reconstruct her mouth.

Alice and Stephanie have made a substantial donation to the Robot Appeal, in celebration of their mum’s life, and they are supporting greater awareness and fundraising efforts around mouth cancer. They also felt that their mum, as a former research scientist, would have thought that the technology behind the Robot was pretty impressive too! And so, their gift in support of the appeal felt like a fitting legacy.

November is mouth cancer awareness month and Alice and Stephanie are gearing up to do media appearances raising awareness on detection, prevention, and treatment of mouth cancer.

Jan's story

Jan has received continued care and support from the transplant department throughout recent years.

She has received a liver transplant at Addenbrooke’s and while Jan is doing lots of different 1000-minute challenges, one of her main challenges is doing 1000 minutes of learning Welsh, in honour of her Welsh transplant donor.

Jan explained: “I’ve always had a connection with Wales and went to university there, and when I found out that my donor was also from Wales and from a proud Welsh family, then it made me want to learn Welsh. We have also called my liver ‘Emrys’, which is a Welsh name meaning ‘immortal’. It stems from the Greek name Ambrose, and we felt it was quite apt because of the gift of life the transplant gave.”

Jan is also learning to play a mandolin (having already mastered the ukulele), and she’s a keen knitter and crafter so she’ll be making some wonderful creations in 1000 minutes that are being sold by a local retailer with all proceeds going to the Robot Appeal.

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