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Adjustable operating table, London, England, 1936-1951

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Where do royalty go for their surgery? The local hospital, or a private one? In this case the operating table was loaned to Buckingham Palace so he could have his operation at home! In fact, King George VI had an operation on this very table on 23 September 1951. His surgeon was Clement Price-Thomas from the Westminster Hospital. Operating theatre staff transferred everything from the hospital theatre to create an exact replica in a room at the palace. His staff came too – the theatre nursing staff led by Sister Sarah Minter, two surgeons to assist Price-Thomas, and two anaesthetists. Bulletins on the King’s health published in the British Medical Journal never said so specifically, but it is highly likely that his operation – the removal of a lung – was to treat lung cancer. Was it a success? What were the risks and rewards? The King made a steady recovery, made certain by the two surgeons who lived at the palace for a short time to keep an eye on him. Many of the team were named in the King’s New Year’s Honours List of 1952. What happened to the royal operating table? It went back to daily use at the Westminster Hospital, the plaque commemorating its unique history. It was one of the best tables of its time – fully adjustable, and made from stainless steel unlike previous wooden operating tables. It was used for many years after the King’s operation – do you think patients knew they’d been on a table fit for a King?

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Glossary: operating table

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