West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has invested in two additional robotic surgery machines this year, with the aim of enabling cancer patients to go home within 24 hours of an operation.

In April 2024, the trust purchased the US-built da Vinci Xi from Intuitive for £2.5 million and the Procept BioRobotic, which is used to treat an enlarged prostate, for around £365,000.

These are in addition to two CMR Surgical Versius robots the trust bought for a combined £2.84m in 2022, taking its total spend on robotics to more than £5.7 million.

Before the robots were introduced in 2022, cancer patients typically stayed in hospital for five days on average after an operation, but the trust says this has now been slashed to two to three days.

It says that operations are safer, more accurate and less invasive with the robots and less painful for patients as smaller, more precise pinpoint incisions can be made.

During a visit to Watford General Hospital on 17 May 2024, Vanesh Patel, a specialist colorectal surgeon who leads the robotics programme at the trust, told Digital Health News that the hope is for patients to be able to go home within 24 hours after surgery by May 2026.

“We’re proud to be building a global centre of excellence for robotic surgery at West Herts, and to offer patients the latest technology for treating cancer and other conditions.

“The fact the trust has now invested in these robots means even more patients will be able to benefit, and get home faster, and with less pain,” Patel said.

He added that the robots offer greater flexibility and range of motion and lead to less blood loss than traditional procedures performed by humans, as well as being more comfortable for surgeons, who can sit to operate the machines.

Around 360 patients have been treated using robotic surgery since the trust’s programme began in 2022 and that is expected to rise to 750 a year once more staff are trained in robotics.

West Herts runs a training programme for junior doctors and has upskilled 14 surgeons so far to use the robotics systems.

The da Vinci Xi has a dual surgeon console, allowing surgical trainees to gain hands-on experience in robotic-assisted surgery alongside an experienced surgeon.

This will help patients across four surgical specialities: colorectal surgery, upper gastrointestinal surgery, gynaecology and urology.

Virtual Hospital

After surgery, patients can be monitored remotely at home through the trust’s ‘virtual hospital’, using specialist technology and the support of experts, who can track key health metrics remotely or in person when needed.

Between April 2023 and February 2024, 5,000 patients were treated via the virtual hospital, in collaboration with West Herts’ delivery partner, Central London Community Health Trust, saving an estimated 4,500 bed days.

In April 2023, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust purchased two of them to train surgical teams and use in operating theatres.