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Alan Bennett meets nurses at opening of new operating theatre

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Playwright Alan Bennett met theatre nurses and other staff when he opened a new operating theatre at University College Hospital where he was once a patient.

Speaking at the launch of the theatre on, Alan Bennett, who was an inpatient for five days following surgery in 2008,said: “I underwent three preliminary angiograms and because my aneurysm was in such an unusual place it was quite a tricky procedure. I found it inspiring that three or four people (medical staff) could work together so tactfully. It was so elegant, it was like a ballet.

“The operation was open surgery (ie traditional scalpel surgery) and it must have been very wide open because it lasted for 7 hours but I don’t remember much about it, I’m glad to say! The aneurysm was in such an unusual place that there wasn’t a name for it. I asked them to name it after me.”

He added: “NHS staff have far more humour. When I was going down to the operating theatre the nurse asked me a long list of medical questions and finished with ‘Do you dye your hair?’ You don’t get laughs like that in a private clinic. “

He said the new hybrid theatre would benefit patients like him in the future.

“My praise could not be higher for the care I received at UCH. The NHS, like the BBC, is an institution dear to the heart of the public and which defines what it is to be British. Any patient who had what I had and who opts to pay for private treatment has got to have more money than sense. The NHS does it better than the rest and its achievements should be trumpeted. That’s why I am here today.”

The “hybrid theatre” – so called because it combines traditional surgery and minimally invasive techniques – includes the latest imaging technology and will enable surgeons to perform more complex operations.

Prof Peter Harris, professor of endovascular surgery at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Traditional vascular operations are effective but have their limitations because often they involve major surgery with significant risks and prolonged recovery times.

“Endovascular interventions enable us to treat a wider range of patients with serious and complex cardiovascular conditions, even those who are not very fit. The hybrid theatre allows a flexible approach with either traditional or endovascular procedures, or both together, being tailored to an individual patient.”

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