NHS hospital first in England to introduce £365,000 assistive robot that helps stroke patients
University Hospitals Dorset NHS Charity has introduced an innovative £365,000 walking robotics device called Walkerbot, which will be used to help stroke patients at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital as they relearn to walk.
The Walkerbot appeal began in 2020, and thanks to generous donations from individuals, local businesses and community supporters, the robotic device was funded by the charity in 20 months.
This cutting-edge piece of technology is the only one of its kind in an NHS hospital in England and is now in use at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital Stroke Unit, helping patients to take the thousands of steps needed a day to allow their brains to rewire during recovery.
Dr Louise Johnson, Consultant Therapist for Stroke at University Hospitals Dorset, said: “I can’t quite believe the Walkerbot campaign has come to an end and that we are now able to offer people in East Dorset access to such an incredible piece of technology as part of their rehabilitation with us. The science behind what we do in stroke rehabilitation is always evolving, along with our understanding of how best to support patient recovery.
“It’s fantastic for patients, but equally exciting for our staff who are committed to providing excellent care. I’m looking forward to working with the team over the coming weeks and months as we embed this within our stroke and neuro rehab services.”
The Walkerbot comprises of a treadmill and a harness that straps around individual so they stay safe while walking. It also has robotics that attach to the user’s legs, which enables the person who is otherwise unable to take steps to take steps as part of their rehabilitation post-stoke at the hospital.
The idea is that the robot helps stroke patients take steps earlier, so that they spend less time in hospital, are able to leave the hospital less dependent and can do more for themselves.
Another benefit of the assistive device is that it requires less therapy staff to treat patients. Where two or three therapists might normally be needed to help someone stand and walk as part of a rehabilitation programme, once Walkerbot is up and running it only takes one staff member to operate. This is more efficient for the hospital, according to the BBC, as it means the therapy team can deliver more rehabilitation to more patients.
Karen Smith, Fundraising Manager at University Hospitals Dorset NHS Charity, commented: “The Walkerbot appeal has been such an exciting project for us and we are delighted that stroke patients now have access to such an incredible piece of technology. The support we’ve received during this campaign has been phenomenal and I cannot thank each and every supporter enough for making donations, taking on challenges and doing what they can to support the hospital.”