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In 2018, funding from the William Cooper Charitable Trust – established in 1992 upon the passing of Victorian philanthropist William Cooper – enabled the first-ever nurse-led prostate biopsy for cancer in Australia.

The funding was in the form of a Fellowship granted to the Nurse Board of Victoria Legacy Limited (NBVLL), the recipient of which was David Heath, a urology nurse at Bendigo Health. The grant allowed David to visit the Queen Alexandra Hospital in the UK, which has a large urology unit providing nurse-led prostate biopsy services for men whose elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) readings indicates risk of prostate cancer. 

David said the trip was a valuable opportunity “to see first-hand how this unit functions and is structured around a model of care that ensures timely investigation and ultimately diagnosis of men with prostate cancer”. 

After returning from the UK, David undertook training and became the first nurse in Australia to perform a transrectal prostate biopsy – a procedure in which samples of suspicious tissue are taken from the prostate with a needle and then analysed by a pathologist to find out if they contain malignant cells. It’s a procedure that can literally save lives.

David has since performed numerous prostate biopsies and is now looking at performing Australia’s first transperineal biopsy by a nurse. A transperineal (or ‘targeted’) biopsy is a similar procedure that accesses the prostate via a different route, which makes the procedure trickier but means less risk of pain and infection and better sampling.

Empowering nurses to perform prostate biopsies means that more men who are at risk of prostate cancer will have access to an accurate check. And early detection means early diagnosis – which means a far better chance that those found to have cancer will be treated successfully. Virginia Rogers, Chair of NBVLL, said the Board had been most excited by David’s application and was most appreciative of the funding provided by the William Cooper Trust.

David himself says the Fellowship opportunity has empowered him personally and professionally, giving him “a great sense of autonomy in that I feel that I have a better understanding of this group of patients under my care. I also feel that we are providing a service that ensures continuity and consistency of care for the men that are under the urology team in my area.”

Equity Trustees is proud to manage the William Cooper Charitable Trust.