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The Duchess of Cornwall visits Oxford

9th May 2014

The Duchess of Cornwall with patients, staff and family members during a visit to the Helen & Douglas House Hospice, Oxford, of which she is a patron, as the hospice celebrates its 10th anniversary.

The Duchess of Cornwall with patients, staff and family members during a visit to the Helen & Douglas House Hospice, Oxford, of which she is a patron, as the hospice celebrates its 10th anniversary.

The Duchess of Cornwall has tried her hand at surgery operating on a patient - albeit a dummy one.

Her Royal Highness joked about needing a delicate hand to perform the procedure during her visit to the University of Oxford's Botnar Research Centre to open a new £12 million building.

The centre, on the site of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Headington, carries out research into improving the treatment of arthritis, osteoporosis and other bone and joint diseases.

The Duchess was shown a simulator, used to train surgical skills, by Professor Jonathan Rees, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Oxford University, and assisted him in operating on a model shoulder.

Her Royal Highness told him: "You need a steady hand, you don't need the shakes...No wonder people have to train so long to do these things."

Prof Rees said afterwards: 'It was great to have her assist me with a shoulder operation. She was great, a natural.

"I explained that, through some research carried out at the Botnar Research Centre, we know if we train our surgeons on simulators first it improves their performance in an operating theatre with patients."

The Duchess has worked for many years to promote understanding and raise awareness of osteoporosis, a devastating brittle bone disease and is President of the National Osteoporosis Society.

Her mother, Rosalind Shand, was 72 when she died in 1994 as a result of osteoporosis and her grandmother died from the same condition eight years earlier.

The Duchess has visited the Botnar Research Centre before, touring the institution in 2003 and opening the original building. The new building essentially doubles the size of the centre.

Professor Andrew Carr, director of the Botnar Research Centre, said after the visit: "We were delighted that The Duchess of Cornwall was able to come and visit here again.

"She saw a variety of our research - on surgical skills, on new drugs for osteoporosis and arthritis and the development of novel woven patches to help the repair of damaged tendon tissue after surgery.

"She spoke to lots of people - secretaries and research nurses as well as scientists. We are enormously grateful for her continued interest."

Later The Duchess celebrated the 10th anniversary of Douglas House, a hospice offering expert care for young adults with life-shortening conditions and support for their families.

The Duchess has been its Patron for seven years and she cut a cake decorated with lollipops to mark the milestone.

She also unveiled a portrait of herself painted by local artist Ruth Heppel who was commissioned by the hospice to produce the artwork which will be hung at the centre.

The Duchess of Cornwall at Douglas House with a portrait painted by Ruth Heppel during a visit to the Helen & Douglas House Hospice, Oxford, of which she is a patron

The Duchess of Cornwall at Douglas House with a portrait painted by Ruth Heppel during a visit to the Helen & Douglas House Hospice, Oxford, of which she is a patron

Her Royal Highness joked "happily this is going to hang here, so I can keep an eye on things", and she described the hospice as an "inspirational and uplifting place to be".

The hospice is part of Helen and Douglas House, with Helen House providing care for children.

Tom Hill, Chief Executive of Helen and Douglas House, said: "Today's visit was the most special occasion. The Duchess of Cornwall, as she always does on occasions like this, puts the children, young people and their families before anyone else.

"She did a marvellous job of putting everyone at ease and making them feel special. My lasting memory is of Her Royal Highness kneeling beside the wheelchair of a very poorly child showing the deepest concern for mum and dad."

The little boy was Jacob Webb, who celebrates his second birthday on Thursday, and has GM1 gangliosidosis - an inherited disorder that progressively destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.