A national robotic-assisted surgery programme allowing surgeons to perform complex procedures with more precision and control is being introduced in Wales, the Health Minister has announced.
The All-Wales Robotic Assisted Surgery Network, developed by health boards, the Life Sciences Hub Wales and the Moondance Cancer Initiative, will provide less invasive surgery for thousands of cancer patients across the country.
The surgery involves the use of highly advanced robotic surgical instruments under the control of a surgeon. It will initially be used in Wales for some Colorectal, Upper Gastrointestinal, Urological and Gynaecological cancers.
The Welsh Government will support the network with funding of £4.2m over five years, alongside £13.35m provided by health boards over 10 years.
Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan said:
The All-Wales Robotic Assisted Surgery Network is an ambitious and important programme helping to improve outcomes for patients and the NHS in Wales.
It will put Wales at the forefront of international research for the use of robotic surgical techniques. This pioneering service will also encourage specialist staff to come to Wales to train and practice.
It will initially be provided in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area, with the first patient expected to receive treatment in June. Once fully established, patients in north Wales will no longer need to travel to England to receive robotic-assisted surgery.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is expected to offer the surgery from June - adding to the capacity of its existing robot - and other health boards across Wales are expected to follow.
The programme will be delivered by health boards in partnership with medical technology company, CMR Surgical, which will provide the equipment, maintenance and training, as well as supporting research into the adoption of robotic-assisted procedures.
Jared Torkington, Lead Clinician for the National Robotic Assisted Surgery Programme, said:
Technological advancements have had a profound effect on surgery over the last few decades, minimising the invasiveness of procedures, improving outcomes, and reducing hospital stays. This national programme will deliver better patient outcomes and embraces the latest innovation.
With the progression of robotic assisted surgery, the next 20 years will see even more radical change, bringing with it the promise of a future where healthcare is even less invasive and better able to fit the individual needs of patients.
Chris Martin, Chair at Life Sciences Hub Wales, said:
The world of surgery is undergoing a period of significant innovation and change that promises to bring huge benefits to patients. We are now entering the next and perhaps most exciting phase in the evolution of healthcare, driven by rapid developments in technology.
Dr Mark Slack, Chief Medical Officer of CMR Surgical, said:
This is a landmark move by NHS Wales and one that will bring many benefits to surgeons and patients providing them access to life changing innovation. We are proud to be part of this programme and believe countries around the world will be looking towards Wales as a potential model for implementation of surgical robotics using advanced technology.
We would like to thank NHS Wales for choosing us as a partner in this exciting robotics programme to address overwhelming needs for improved surgical care and outcomes for cancer patients in Wales.
Mr Mohamed Abdulmajed, Consultant Urological and Pelvic Oncology Surgeon at Ysbyty Gwynedd, said:
We are certainly looking forward to becoming the first surgical discipline to use robotics to treat patients who require major cancer surgery in North Wales.
Robotic-surgery has many advantages for patients compared to open surgery including a smaller wound, less blood loss, shorter hospital stay and earlier recovery allowing the patient to return to work sooner.
We are confident that the provision of robotic surgery in North Wales will help to recruit and retain staff. It also gives us the opportunity to provide training for staff locally, which in turn, will increase the amount of robotic surgery we are able to offer to cancer patients across North Wales.