15/12/2023 | Press releases

Colchester Hospital becomes first European site to offer robotic surgery for all colorectal procedures

All patients having colorectal surgery at Colchester Hospital will now benefit from their operation being done robotically.

Colchester Hospital, part of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), has become the first hospital site in UK, Ireland and Europe to reach this landmark.

The team has reached this important milestone after all six colorectal surgeons have completed their training in this cutting-edge technology.

Robotic surgery has been offered for some patients having colorectal, gynaecological, urological or knee replacements during the last three years. But all patients having colorectal surgery at Colchester Hospital, will now have their surgery completed using the surgeon-controlled Da Vinci Xi robot.

The multi-specialty robotic surgery programme at ESNEFT started three years ago and has now expanded to four robots.

Man in blue theatre scrubs standing behind a white machine
Subash Vasudevan, general and colorectal surgeon at ESNEFT

Subash Vasudevan is a general and colorectal surgeon at ESNEFT and chair of the robotic steering group.

He said: “This is a huge achievement for our robotics programme and a ground-breaking step for our patients who are able to benefit from the investment we’ve made into four Da Vinci robots we now have at the Trust.

“To achieve this milestone in three years whilst we were working through a global pandemic is a true testament to the vision of our executive team, and hard work and dedication of the hundreds of staff who have made this happen.

“The unique close working relationship we have between clinical teams, a dedicated innovation team and an executive team willing to put in huge investment has made this possible.”

The Da Vinci robot has two parts – the patient part, that looks like an octopus with several arms to which the robotic instruments are attached. Then the surgeon sits at a separate console controlling the robot’s arms to operate.

Operation with patient on a bed and lots of machinery, including screen.
The Da Vinci Xi robot with the section connected to the patient (left and centre of the picture) with the surgeon sitting at a separate console controlling the robot arms (to the right of the picture)

Subash added: “All our colorectal surgeons are trained to use the Da Vinci robot which offers many benefits for patients. We have seen first-hand the benefits that robotic surgery brings to our patients including shorter hospital stay, less traditional open procedure surgery as the robot surgery uses keyhole-like cuts meaning it’s less invasive, and therefore better outcomes.”

ESNEFT also runs one of the first comprehensive training programmes for trainee surgeons and allied health care professionals delivered through the Iceni Centre at Colchester Hospital.

Clinicians in masks in operating theatre standing by a bed and machine
Some of the robotic team at Colchester Hospital

Subash added: “There are benefits for surgeons too. It is less physically demanding during long operations as we’re able to sit at the console rather than stand for hours in very uncomfortable positions needed for conventional surgery. This is especially relevant for extending a surgeon’s working lifespan.”

A significant volume of work is done using the Da Vinci Xi robot at Ipswich Hospital and with the new theatre build on the Ipswich site a similar transition to fully robotic procedures for all major colorectal procedures is expected in the near future.

People standing outside a building wearing suits
Members of the robotic programme team

ESNEFT’s Director of Finance, Adrian Marr, said: “The Trust has made a significant capital investment of over £10m in robotic surgery over the last three years. We are now, as an organisation, seeing the benefits of this investment, with reduced length of stay and less re-admissions for patients, and a speedier rehabilitation programme. This enables patients to return to their normal lives quicker than they would have done with a traditional surgical procedure. This is backed up by excellent patient feedback.”

Read more about the patients’ view on robotic surgery on our story about two women who had gynaecological operations.

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