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World-renowned orthopaedic centre celebrates 90th anniversary – and receives a birthday message from the Queen



The RD&E’s Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre (PEOC) has celebrated its 90th birthday after being opened by royalty in 1927.

PEOC was opened by the Duke and Duchess of York on 16 November 1927 to help children with debilitating diseases such as tuberculosis and polio. The Duchess named PEOC after her daughter Princess Elizabeth, the present Queen, who was just 18 months old at the time.

In the nine decades since, PEOC has transformed the lives of countless people and established itself as one of the UK’s leading centres of orthopaedic excellence. The centre, based at the RD&E’s main Wonford site, now achieves some of the best hip and knee patient outcome rates in the country, along with very low post-surgery infection rates.
It has also received national and international acclaim for its ground-breaking research. Among its greatest innovations is the Exeter Hip – a replacement joint made of polished stainless steel, developed in 1969 and still in use today. The centre is also leading the way in other aspects of orthopaedic study such as shoulder research and ankle replacement design. 

Since its humble beginnings, when it admitted just 74 boys and 51 girls a year after opening in 1928, PEOC now performs around 8,000 operations and handles more than 38,000 outpatient appointments each year. It covers a wide range of specialties including knees, hips, spines, hands, feet and ankles, shoulders, rheumatology and paediatrics.

Some of its finest surgeons over the years were Brennan Dyball, Norman Capener and Frederick Durbin, who have RD&E wards named after them. Another eminent figure was Professor Robin Ling, who teamed up with Exeter University engineer Clive Lee to invent and launch the Exeter Hip in the late 1960s. PEOC is currently led by clinical director Ian Sharpe.

Among those sending anniversary wishes to PEOC was the Queen, after the RD&E contacted Buckingham Palace to inform Her Majesty of the centre’s big day this month.
Her Majesty wrote: “Please convey my warm thanks to the staff of the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust for their kind message, on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre….I much appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing as you did and, in return, send my best wishes to you all for a memorable and successful day.”

Professor Andrew Toms, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon and Clinical Lead for the Knee Team, said: “When PEOC opened in 1927 it was the only centre for elective orthopaedics within the South West. Since then it has grown to be a centre of excellence with a worldwide reputation.

“Its multidisciplinary teams deliver outstanding healthcare and as a result PEOC now ranks very highly nationally for all the key patient-based outcome measures and rated as ‘among the best’ by the Department of Health comparison website, My NHS.

“I would like to publicly thank all the staff past and present for their commitment to patient care and helping to make this such a great unit to work in.”

Keen bowler and Exeter City fan Frank Lethbridge, aged 78 from Alphington, Exeter, has had both knees and his left hip replaced by surgeons at PEOC. Next month, he’s due to have his right hip replaced.

For Frank, who suffers from arthritis, the surgery allows him to maintain his independence and keep up the hobbies he loves.

He said: “I’m a keen bowler and after my right knee operation last year I’ve managed to complete a complete season of playing. I also like watching Exeter City so I can go up there. It’s allowed me to carry on living a near normal life.

“I’ve had excellent service from everyone at PEOC, from the surgeons right through to the people on the wards. I have nothing but praise for them.”


Added 17th November 2017

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