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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SuppoRTT (Supported Return to Training) Programme to continue for a further year inline with the SSTP for General Surgery & Obstetrics & Gynaecology HE NEE Trainees

The NSTC in collaboration with HENE was successful in securing funding to provide a practical based SuppoRTT programme to help Trainees in General Surgery and Obstetrics & Gynaecology within the HENE Region to return to work following a period of absence.  This was initally funded for one year, but due to the success of the programme and requests from Trainees, the NSTC will continue supporting Trainees in line with the Surgical Skills Training Programme (SSTP) for a further year.

Returning to work after a career break or going back to work after an extended period away from work (i.e. maternity leave, illness, research) can prove to be quite a challenge.  Whatever the reason, the period of time absent from work often causes a feeling of reduced confidence.  The programme provides a series of bespoke structured courses which will be available throughout the year held at the Newcastle Surgical Training Centre, and will focus on practical cadaveric sessions.

The emphasis of these sessions is developing the skills to support a positive return to training, in a supported and safe enviornment with time to revise and practice skills.

NSTC SuppoRTT Programme Overall Lead Professor Alan Horgan, Consultant Surgeon & NSTC & SSTP Clinical Director
NSTC General Surgery Clinical Leads Miss Sarah Robinson, Consultant Surgeon, Northumbria Mr Venkat Kanakala, Consultant Surgeon, James Cook
NSTC Obs & Gynae Clinical Lead  Mr Tony Chalhoub, Consultant Gynaecologist, Newcastle Trust
NSTC SuppoRTT Programme Manager Mrs Sue Dent, NSTC Specialty Surgical Manager

Surgical Skills Trainng Programme (SSTP)

Following the success of the NSTC & Health Education North East Surgical Skills Training Programme (SSTP) Pilot in General Surgery and ENT, the programme has now been rolled out to the majority of Surgical Specialties in the Northern Region to include Urology, Orthopaedics, Plastics, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Paediatric Surgical Trainees, Core Cardiothoracics, OMFS, Ophthalmology and also Radiology.  Neurosurgery will join the programme in September 2020.

The overall programme is led by Professor Alan Horgan, NSTC & SSTP Clinical Director.  The programme has received excellent feedback from both Trainees and Trainers, and is the first of its kind in the UK, delivering an intensive, individualised, unique surgical training opportunity to Health Education North East Surgical Trainees.  The programme provides fresh frozen cadaveric based skills training and assessment to all General Surgical Trainees.

The programme is a visionary response to the rapidly changing face of surgery prompted by exciting technological advances in surgical technques and skills.

New SSTP Clinical Leads for 2020:

Urology SSTP Clinical Lead:

From September 2020 Mr Rajan Veeratterapillay, Consultant Urologist, Newcastle Trust, will take over this role from Mr David Thomas who has led the Urology SSTP very successfully since the Specialty joined the SSTP programme in 2012.

Neurosurgery SSTP Clinical Lead:

Neurosurgery to join the SSTP Programme in September 20, led by Miss Claire Nicholson, Consultant Neurosurgeon, Newcastle Trust.


Joined the programme in December 2019 led by Mr Ajay Wilson and Mr Michael Nugent, Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons, Sunderland Royal Hospital

The Newcastle Surgical Training Centre - was the first centre in England to receive full accreditation from the Royal College of Surgeons.

The Centre in Newcastle has developed a national and international reputation, providing a specialist forum for endoscopic skills and is part of the drive to improve the delivery and safety of surgical care and development of new near-patient technology. This centre is one of the very first purpose built anatomical examination units of its kind in the UK to carry a formal licence from the Human Tissue Authority enabling some of its leading surgeons to deliver cadaveric training in a unique and extremely high specification "wet lab" environment. See This is yet another demonstration of the Trust's excellence and expertise.

The College terms accreditation as the process by which it verifies the quality and standards of courses or events offered by educational organisations and it has developed guidance and standards to act as a benchmark for good quality programmes, courses or event design. Policies have been developed around six specific forms of accreditation in order to corroborate where programmes, courses, or events have complied with the College's criteria and standards.

One of the 6 forms of accreditation is Centre Accreditation - the review of Surgical Education Centres to ensure compliance with the College criteria and standards for surgical education provision as part of a collaborative educational partnership. There is a rigorous application process to be followed. The Newcastle Surgical Training Centre at Freeman Hospital strives to be a world class research-intensive training facility, to deliver teaching of the highest quality and to play a leading role in the economic, social and cultural development of the North East of England and be acknowledged as a centre of excellence. This accolade has been granted following in depth analysis of the NTSC's procedures.

Mr Getty said "On behalf of the President, Professor Norman Williams, I am delighted to be awarding this accreditation to the Newcastle Surgical Training Centre. The unit provides an excellent facility in which to train the surgeons of the future in a realistic simulated environment, which ensures both the highest standards of training as well as patient safety

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Freeman Hospital,
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High Heaton,
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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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