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A young cancer patient has named a robot which is helping to keep the floors of Tunbridge Wells Hospital clean and freeing up cleaners so they can carry out vital touch point cleaning during the pandemic.

Eight-year-old Mabel Baillieux picked the name Penny during a naming ceremony which took place on Hedgehog Ward earlier today (Wednesday 25 August).

The youngster, who was chosen by staff to name the robot, is a regular patient on the ward as she is currently under the care of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW NHS Trust) receiving treatment for leukaemia.

Mabel, a Year 4 pupil at Ashdown Primary School, in Crowborough East Sussex, said: “I was really pleased to be asked to name the robot Penny.

“Her jokes are quite bad but that’s what makes her funny.

“I think the other children will like seeing her too when she visits the ward.”

Two robots are hard at work at both Tunbridge Wells Hospital and Maidstone Hospital. Four-year-old Caleb Holden, who has cerebral palsy and is being cared for by the Trust’s paediatric team, selected the name Matilda for the robot at Maidstone Hospital during a naming ceremony held at Riverbank Children’s Unit on Monday (23 August).

Dad Matt, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, said: “I think the robots are a great idea and Caleb was so excited about being asked to choose the name of the robot at Maidstone Hospital.

“We usually visit one of the Trust’s hospital sites 10 times a year due to Caleb needing various treatments and procedures, so hopefully he’ll get to see Matilda again when he’s next in.”

Sarah Gray, MTW’s Assistant General Manager for Facilities, was instrumental in bringing the interactive robots to the Trust.

She said: “We thought it would be nice to ask our young patients who are undergoing treatment at each of the hospital sites to name the robots as during the summer months they will visit the children’s wards during the day a couple of times a week.

“The best bit about the robots is that they can interact with people. They can say ‘Excuse me, you’re in my way’ and people can also press the centre button on the front of the robot for further interaction. They can even tell jokes, nursery rhymes and sing! We think they’ll be a great hit with the children and young people who use our paediatric services and hopefully they’ll help to put a smile on their faces.

“On a more serious note, the robots have been brought in to support our cleaners. They currently spend a lot of time mopping large floor spaces in the main reception areas and the corridors of both hospitals on a regular basis during the winter months, but the robots will help to free them up so they can carry out vital touch point cleaning around the two sites which is essential during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As the robots use 70% less water than other floor machinery it means the floors will dry quicker, making them safer for patients, visitors, staff and guests. They’re also programmed to stop if people or objects get in their way.

“The robots will work in the main corridors at night time. They will also be visible in the main entrances and corridors throughout the winter months cleaning the floor areas.

“The names chosen by the children will be placed on the front of each of the robots so visitors and patients can see what they are called when they are out and about and hard at work.”