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Robots usher in new surgical era and transform care at West Herts

Posted: 28 September 2022

A new surgical era is underway at West Herts bringing huge benefits to patients and staff including speedier recovery for patients and access to game changing equipment for surgeons and theatre staff.

West Herts Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is the first NHS trust in the country to install two Versius robots to assist with surgical operations. The state-of-the-art robots (created by CMR Surgical) made their debut in July and are being used to perform colorectal and urology surgery.

Performing robotic-assisted surgery brings major benefits to patients including reduced post-operative pain and a faster recovery which leads to earlier discharge from hospital.

Mr Vanash Patel, consultant colorectal surgeon, is the driving force and vision behind the robotic programme at West Herts.

He said: "This is an incredible moment for everyone involved here at West Herts. This is the beginning of a new era for our surgeons, our trust, and most importantly our patients. With these state-of-the-art robots, we can offer our patients the very best care."

"The patient experiences less pain because the robot creates a virtual pivot point around the small incisions through which the robotic instruments are inserted. This minimises trauma and puts less strain on the patient. The patient needs fewer opioid painkillers which leads to a faster recovery."

picture of staff with robots

Christopher McAuley, the first patient to receive robotic assisted surgery at West Herts, underwent a right hemicolectomy [removal of the right side of the colon and attaching the small intestine to the remaining portion of the colon] for bowel cancer in July. The surgery was a great success; Christopher recovered well with no pain and was discharged a day earlier than usual practice.

Christopher said: "I am feeling great, better than before, I didnít feel any pain at all, in fact I would say it was painless!"

He said: "I was fascinated by the idea of robotic surgery and was very much looking forward to the operation. I canít believe how well it all went. It was absolutely sensational. I canít thank Mr Patel enough, and the nurses who took care of me were brilliant."

In addition to transforming patient care, the robots are an inspiration to staff too.

Mr Patel said: "Our theatre team are working brilliantly together, they are highly skilled and motivated and are thrilled to be acquiring new specialised skills."

Shilly John, colorectal sister in charge said: "I am so happy with the robot assisted surgeries, I am so pleased to come to work as the teams are amazing and the cases are really interesting."

Staff are acquiring valuable specialist skills which in turn is attracting highly skilled staff to the trust.

Mr Patel said: "This incredible technology is helping to recruit the very best talent for our trust. We have recently recruited two high quality upper gastrointestinal surgeons and a talented colorectal surgeon, all with higher degrees who trained in London. They joined the trust because of the robots."

All surgeons and their teams go through a comprehensive training course before carrying out robotic assisted surgery with patients. This includes practising using a Versius trainer simulator, online e-learning modules, as well as face-to-face mentoring in the operating room.

Acquiring the robots is another milestone achievement in a landmark year for the trust, which launched its Ďteaching hospitalí status in April.

Mr Patel said: "As a teaching hospital, having two surgical robots enables us to accelerate our staff training programme, giving surgeons joining the robotics programme access to state-of-the-art technology to train when needed, while ensuring a robot is always available in the operating room." The use of surgical robots will expand to other specialties at West Herts including gynaecology, and upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Trust CEO Matthew Coats said: "This has been a huge achievement for our trust. Advances in intelligence and digital technology within the operating theatre are resulting in better surgical outcomes using technology like robot surgery. We are proud of our innovative and forward-thinking surgical team - their hard work has paid off and our patients are benefitting from this advanced technology. Iíd like to thank them for their dedication and commitment to driving innovation to transform care at West Herts."

  1. Short video (1 min 11 seconds) of robotic-assisted surgery and interview with Mr Vanash Patel, consultant colorectal surgeon, can be viewed here. Additional stills are also available. Please contact the communications team as below. Copyright for all images: West Herts Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
  2. The robots have a modular configuration, with four mechanical arms and a surgical instrument attached to each arm, controlled by a surgeon seated at a computer console near the operating table. The console gives the surgeon a magnified high-definition, 3D view of the area, so they can perform complex procedures with more precision, flexibility and control than conventional techniques.
  3. The robot technology gives real-time metrics, in-depth case statistics, feedback on the surgeonís performance, and other insights aimed at driving improvement. This data has the potential to help standardise surgery and improve patient outcomes.
  4. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: westherts.communications@nhs.net. For out of hours media enquiries please call the Watford General Hospital switchboard on 01923 244366 and ask for the on call communications manager.
  5. 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.
  6. For more information about our hospitals, visit www.westhertshospitals.nhs.uk. You can also join our followers on Twitter (twitter.com/westhertsNHS) and find us on Facebook (facebook.com/westhertsNHS).