NHS surgeons have begun using the Versius robot for minimal access surgery (MAS) for the first time.

CMR Surgical’s robot has previously been used to perform a range of colorectal surgeries, helping to treat patients with serious bowel disease or bowel cancer.

The Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and the Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Trust (MUK) are now using the same technology in MAS.

Professor Joe Harrison, chief executive at MUK, 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.”

By being portable, the Versius robot can be easily moved to different sites within a hospital, or even transported between hospitals within an NHS trust. Once in theatre, it takes on average just 15 minutes to set up the system.

CMR Surgical said more trusts were scheduled to introduce the system in 2020. These include both large teaching hospitals and smaller local centres, which could open the door to a much wider use of robotic MAS than seen to date.

Mark Slack, chief medical officer at CMR Surgical, added: “We set out to design a system that was versatile, portable and cost-effective, and it is immensely rewarding to see it now being used in the NHS – one of the most thorough and clinically rigorous health systems in the world.

“We are intent on ensuring the responsible introduction of this technology, and the skilled expertise and focus on innovative research at these NHS sites make them the ideal place for this technology.

“Our focus now will be on working with the surgical community across the UK to provide the option of minimal access surgery to everyone who may benefit.”

The use of robots in health is on the rise. In January 2020, Digital Health News reported that North Bristol NHS Trust and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of the West of England were collaborating on the development of robotics to improve patients’ experience of hospital.