Newcastle Hospitals has partnered with Intuitive to launch an academic programme designed to train the next generation of robotic surgeons.

The first of its kind in the UK will support surgical trainees from across the North East of England to gain hands-on experience of robotic surgery at the Freeman Hospital’s Newcastle Surgical Training Centre.

More the 30 surgical trainees in urology colorectal, HPB and upper GI from Trust’s across the North East are enrolled in the academic programme designed to create early exposure to robotic surgery sooner in a surgeon’s career.

The da Vinci Academic Surgical Trainee Programme is being run by Newcastle Hospitals in partnership with Intuitive, the pioneers of robotic surgery and makers of the da Vinci surgical systems that are used across the majority of trusts in England.

Newcastle Hospitals pioneered the use of da Vinci systems and offers one of the most comprehensive robotic surgery programmes in the UK. It is also the only hospital trust providing robotic surgery in eight specialties.

Professor Alan Horgan, consultant colorectal surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals is the co-director of the Newcastle Surgical Training Centre and believes the training programme has huge benefits for trainees in the region. He said: “This means a lot to the Newcastle Surgical Training Centre and also to the Trust – to be the first of its kind in the UK and indeed in Europe to be running a surgical training programme which will allow all trainees to become proficient in robotic surgery by the time they complete surgical training.

“This is the only region where we are offering all trainees the chance to become skilled at robotic surgery and that means a lot for our region in terms of attracting the best and brightest trainees.”

Current practice within the NHS sees a surgeon gain access to begin training to use a robotic system once they have qualified as a consultant, which can limit the amount of experience a trainee surgeon can have to robotic systems.

Professor Horgan continues: “Prior to the launch of the programme trainees had very limited access to robotic surgery – they could watch robotic procedures and could do some simulation training in their own time but they had very limited ability to perform procedures themselves.

“For our patients this is great news as there will be more and more surgeries being performed robotically in the future and it means their surgeons will be trained at an early stage to perform these procedures and they can take full advantage of the technology.”

One of the first trainees to join the programme is Abraham Joel and ST8 resectional UGI trainee. He said: “In my opinion robotic-assisted surgery will become the gold standard of care and represents the future for surgeons, so I am grateful to have been involved in this programme run by the NSTC and have access to train on such innovative technology. The ability of this training programme to record and track progress is so important too, both for our own learning and for the oversight of our mentors.”

The programme enables trainee surgeons to begin robotic surgery much earlier in their careers and follows a global four-phased structured curriculum.

Once the trainees have successfully completed all four phases of the programme they will be awarded with a training equivalent certificate, which shows technical competence of the da Vinci system.

David Marante, Regional Director at Intuitive UK and Ireland, said: “We are excited to collaborate with the healthcare institutions in the North East of England to run the UK’s first academic programme training the next generation of surgeons to use da Vinci systems.

“We look forward to working with this cohort of trainees over the next three years who represent the future of surgery here in the UK, as they go on to utilise our technology to support the NHS in improving outcomes and productivity and deliver better overall experience for patients while lowering the total cost of care.”

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© Copyright NSTC 2020  The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust gratefully acknowledge the generous support provided by the Newcastle Healthcare Charity (Reg. 502473) and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Charity (Reg 1057213) who provided the initial funding to establish the Surgical Training Centre (Freeman Hospital)
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