South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has become one of only three NHS trusts to have a team of surgical robots.

Surgical teams at The James Cook University Hospital now have three da Vinci robots, allowing them to treat patients with minimally invasive procedures.

The trust says it now has the potential to become a national centre of excellence.

The three robots will be used across five specialities at the hospital including urology; thoratic services; gynaecology; general surgery; and ear, nose and throat services.

James Cook currently provides robotic surgery to about 380 patients a year, but the expansion programme is expected to double that number.

By 2021 it’s hoped that heart specialists at the hospital will be the first in the north east region – and only the second in the UK – to offer robotics for cardiac surgery.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Joel Dunning said: “We are now one of only three hospitals in the UK that has three robots.

“This is going to hugely spring forward our ability to do minimally invasive surgery at this site and it will allow us to start cardiac robotics so it is a very exciting time.”

Robotic surgery has been used at the trust since 2014. The robots use tiny instruments which are controlled remotely by the surgeon sitting at a console.

Surgeons benefit from 3D vision of the procedure as well as hand and foot controls to control the instruments.

This enhanced precision helps reduce side effects and the length of time patients need to stay in hospital.

The trust is amongst the first in the UK to take part in a national Royal College of Surgeons’ study looking at how much robotic surgery benefits patients.