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Robotic surgery innovation at West Herts: Training the trainees with Versius

Posted: 26 July 2023

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Robotic surgery at West Herts Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust continues to go from strength to strength and is now boasting another key milestone; training specialist trainees on the skills and techniques required to perform colorectal and upper gastrointestinal surgery via robotics. The new approach, recently implemented, means specialist trainees can receive first-hand training in this innovative technology.

West Herts became one of the first NHS trusts 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 2022 and are successfully being used to perform colorectal, upper gastrointestinal, gynaecology and urology operations.

Specialist trainee, Nazrin Assaf has been training in robotic surgery since May this year. She said: “The training has been really good so far; not many trainees have the opportunity to practice with robotics, so it’s been amazing to learn in this environment. I feel the chance to learn this way will help the next generation of surgeons quickly adapt to this style of surgery. We’ll also be in a great position in the future, when hopefully more and more hospitals will have robots such as this in place.”

“It was really helpful to learn first-hand about robotic surgery as an assistant, before starting my own robotic operations. Where I have learnt skills in a laparoscopic setting, performing keyhole surgery, and perhaps felt more confident, I have been able to move across to this new technique. With the encouragement and support of my consultant trainer, I have now completed surgery on patients using robotics with much more ease and confidence.”

Performing robotic-assisted surgery brings major benefits to patients, including reduced post-operative pain and a faster recovery, leading to earlier hospital discharge. Trainees practise using a Versius training simulator, online e-learning modules, a technical skills course, as well as face-to-face mentoring in the operating room.

Chanpreet Arhi, consultant trainer said: “We started training our specialist trainees at the earliest opportunity. Whatever is possible in laparoscopic surgery can be done robotically with huge benefits for our trainees. In a typical training scenario, a trainee is able to complete a procedure from start to finish with mostly only verbal advice or guidance needed from the trainer. There is a major advantage in sitting next to our trainees with the opportunity to take over at any point making it incredibly safe.

“When I trained, I never thought this would be possible. I am excited to see many more of our specialist trainees becoming confident in their ability to carry out our robotic surgery here at West Herts over the coming months. As the programme develops, it will also not only be an attractive offer for trainees wanting to work here but eventually, be a normal part of training for them.”

Mr Vanash Patel, consultant colorectal surgeon and driving force behind the robotic programme said: “Our trainee surgeons have taken this on board positively. We will continue to develop the training to further improve the experience and outcomes for trainees, with the key aim of normalising robotic surgical training at the trust.”


  1. For media enquiries, 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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