Money left behind by retired BBC engineer enables Medway Maritime Hospital to introduce new surgery simulator

A new virtual reality simulator allowing trainee surgeons to hone their skills has opened in a hospital thanks to money left in the will of a retired BBC engineer.

After Ralph Barrett had a serious motorcycle accident during World War II, he underwent 14 operations to save his leg at Medway Maritime Hospital, Gillingham.

The opening ceremony of the new virtual reality simulator at the Medway Maritime Hospital

He was so grateful for the care he received that he left £1million in his will to the trust’s orthopedic service.

The simulator will allow trainee surgeons to practice the skills needed to perform arthroscopic orthopedic joint surgery – and it is the only trust in the region to have such equipment.

Jo Palmer, Chairman of the Trust, said: “The Knee, Shoulder, Hip and Ankle Simulator for Arthroscopic Skills Training uses an original arthroscope, camera and other surgical instruments suitable for the simulation of virtual reality.

“The aim is to shorten learning curves and ensure a smooth transfer of skills to the operating room.

“Virtual reality simulators speed up the time it takes to learn skills, and the use of original instruments provides a comprehensive training experience and prepares users for real-world procedures in a surgical setting.

“We are the only trust in the area to have this suite of equipment and we felt it was an appropriate use of Mr. Barrett’s legacy.

Ralph Barrett was a BBC engineer as well as a talented musician
Ralph Barrett was a BBC engineer as well as a talented musician

“His leg was saved by talented surgeons and we are using his gift to train the orthopedic surgeons of the future.”

The money also funded arthroscopy equipment and surgical software for major theaters, as well as ultrasound for orthopedic clinics.

It will support the new Trust Day Endoscopic Spine Surgery Service.

Alison Davis, the Trust’s Chief Medical Officer, said: “We are delighted to support the Department of Orthopedics’ same day endoscopic spine surgery service.

“The equipment, which will be purchased from this wonderful legacy, will enable the team to develop and implement a program that aligns with Medway NHS Foundation Trust’s patient first improvement strategy.

‘He was an incredible man. He had a terrible accident and was so grateful that he wanted to show his gratitude…’

“Eligible patients will soon be able to undergo endoscopic spine surgery and go home the same day.

“It will have such a positive impact on recovery and improve the lives of our patients.”

Mr Barrett died in 2017, aged 93, and was a member of the special operations executive, landing agents in Europe during the war.

He was also a radio expert and was largely responsible for Eurovision and the establishment of Eurovision links and the first satellite links to the United States.

When he retired from the BBC he had another career for two decades, traveling the country giving talks on the radio and was also a talented musician, performing old musicals at the Players Theater in London.

It is hoped that the new equipment at Medway Maritime Hospital will ultimately benefit future patients
It is hoped that the new equipment at Medway Maritime Hospital will ultimately benefit future patients

Ralph’s nephew Glenn Barrett and his wife Hilary recently visited the hospital to open the Ralph Barrett Virtual Reality Room.

Glenn said: “He was an amazing man. He had a terrible accident and was so grateful he wanted to show his gratitude.

“I know he would be absolutely captivated by this equipment because it’s electronic and he was an electronics engineer, so it’s really very fitting.

“It’s absolutely perfect, so thank you for all the work that has been done.

“I know a lot of people locally will benefit from this equipment, so we are very pleased, on behalf of the Barrett family and on behalf of Ralph, to declare it open.”

Comments are closed.