UK hospitals are first in Europe to use next generation of surgical robots

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The Prime Minister Boris Johnson accompanied by Iain Stewart MP visits Milton Keynes University Hospital Surgery Unit. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Milton Keynes yesterday (Monday) to see the futuristic technology being used to combat NHS backlogs firsthand.

Milton Keynes University Hospital (MKUH) has become the first in Europe to use the Versius Surgical Robotic System for major gynaecological surgery, including complex cancer cases.

The state of the art system mimics a human arm, working in a similar way to a computer games console, with the ability to move and rotate its “wrists” in a unique and very precise fashion.

Milton Keynes University Hospital (MKUH) has become the first in Europe to use the Versius Surgical Robotic System for major gynaecological surgery, including complex cancer cases.Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Milton Keynes is one of only two hospitals in Europe to now use the robot arms which have been hailed by doctors as “a leap forward in surgical precision.” Both in Britain, the other hospital to benefit from the state of the art equipment is the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

Since its introduction at MKUH in 2019, CMR Surgical’s Versius Robot has performed hundreds of complex surgeries across colorectal, gynaecological and general surgery.

On his visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital, the PM said he was impressed with the robotics facility, noting that the tech could be a key way to deal with the NHS backlog due to Covid. Mr Johnson said getting the NHS back on track after two years of coping with Covid-enforced hospital admissions was his new focus.

The Prime Minister said:

“What I’m looking to do today is to look at the number one issue facing British people, and that is we’re coming out of Covid, we hope, touch wood.

“Omicron, has been another grim experience for our country, but it is starting to recede.

“The biggest issue we face and the reason I’m here at Milton Keynes University Hospital is, because we’ve got six million people now awaiting treatment for one kind or another in the NHS.

“Record numbers in the backlog. That number, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve got to tell our listeners is going to go up, because people will inevitably come forward who didn’t get treatments during Covid and who need those treatments.They must come forward.

“What I want to tell you is we are focused 100% on trying to fix those backlogs, on trying to contract that period that people have to wait.

“I don’t believe that there is a family in this country that hasn’t had some experience of somebody who needed treatment and who was delayed.

“Whether it was cancer or anything else, and that is the priority for the government and that’s why we’re putting the £36 billion more in. That’s why there’s 44,000 more people in the NHS today than there were in 2020.

“But what you’ve also got to do is look at technology and the ways you can speed stuff up and make it work better.

“The reason we are here in Milton Keynes today is they have an incredible robotics facility and amazing progress is being made on robotically assisted surgery.

“So, you can speed things up for the patient, it’s less intrusive, it’s less traumatic, plus you can get more done. That is the focus for the government, coming out of Covid, rebuilding the economy, addressing the big problems and addressing the backlogs.”

Of the new robotic system, Professor Joe Harrison, Chief Executive at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Innovative robotic systems like Versius are set to play a vital part in delivering world-leading surgical care across the NHS and I am delighted that the team at Milton Keynes will be some of the first in the world to be routinely using this technology.

“Versius represents a remarkable step forward in this field and one that could help make keyhole surgery far more accessible. The hope for us is that this will lead to better outcomes for patients as well as helping us to free up bed space that can then be used to help others in need.”

Lord Prior, NHS England chair added:

“It’s fantastic that the NHS is the first in Europe to use the next generation of surgical robots, and yet another example of how the NHS is teaming up with Britain’s excellent engineering sector to deliver world-class care.”

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