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Hospital trusts marks new teaching status with double robot delivery!

Posted: 8 April 2022

Picture of clinical staff standing by two Versius surgical robots
West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (WHTH) is the first NHS trust in the country to install not just one, but TWO Versius robots to assist with surgical operations.

The state-of-the-art robots (made by CMR Surgical) will be used in a growing range of surgical procedures, bringing benefits to patients, and helping staff acquire valuable specialist skills.

The robots will make their debut in colorectal surgery but are also planned for use in other specialties, including gynaecology, urology, and upper gastrointestinal surgery at West Herts. The trust aims to become a centre of excellence for the most advanced form of multi-speciality, minimally invasive robotic surgery.

The robots - which were approved by the trust in March - help surgeons perform complex procedures with high precision. Robotic surgery tends to require a smaller incision which can speed recovery and reduce blood loss. A small 3D high definition camera and surgical instruments which can be changed when needed are inserted onto the end of the independent robotic arms. The surgeon then sits or stands at a console within the theatre, using the hand controllers to move the robotic arms and perform the necessary treatment. This gives the surgeon enhanced precision and control, and a better sense of distance and spatial relationship when working within parts of the body.

Evidence from other hospitals which use the Versius systems has shown improved patient outcomes and reduced length of stay in hospital.

In the past robotic surgery has been restricted due to costs, theatre size and the need for infrastructure work to accommodate the fixed robotic arms. However, the latest systems are now fully transportable, compact in size and do not require any additional infrastructure.

This means the benefits of robotic devices can be offered to more patients requiring a greater variety of surgical procedures.

The new equipment underlines the trust’s role in training and educating the next generation of healthcare professionals. Access to robotic surgery systems is a major boost for recruitment and retention.

Mr Vanash Patel, consultant colorectal surgeon at WHTH explained: “We are very excited about welcoming the robots! Having two instead of one really kickstarts our ambition to become a centre of excellence in robotic surgery. Our surgeons will now be able to perform complex operations with the enhanced precision and control that robotics offer.”

Dr Mike van der Watt, the trust’s chief medical officer, said: “We have seen from other trusts that investment in next generation surgical technology has helped attract and retain talent, whilst helping to alleviate the physical toll experienced by surgeons during surgery. With two surgical robotic systems, we will attract top talent as well as providing training and development opportunities for existing staff.”

Dr Mark Slack, chief medical officer of CMR Surgical commented: “We’re hugely proud to partner with WHTH on an NHS-first implementation of two Versius Surgical Robotic Systems. We know from previous partnerships that as well as providing improved patient outcomes through access to minimal access surgery, and a more comfortable quality of working life for surgical teams, an investment in surgical robotics like this will truly put WHTH on the map as a centre for excellence in health technology.”

  1. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: For out of hours media enquiries please call the Watford General Hospital switchboard on 01923 244366 and ask for the on call communications manager.
  2. West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust serves people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three hospitals; Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead. The trust has a catchment area of over 500,000 people and is one of the largest employers locally, with around 5,000 staff and volunteers.
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