A programme has been launched in North East England to give NHS trainee surgeons experience of robotic surgery using the da Vinci surgical system by the time they complete training .
The initiative is a partnership between its California-based manufacturer, Intuitive, and Newcastle Hospitals, which pioneered use of da Vinci systems in the UK.
The da Vinci Academic Surgical Trainee Programme has already enrolled more than 30 surgical trainees in urology, colorectal, hepato-pancreatico-biliary, and upper gastrointestinal specialties from trusts across the region.
Current NHS practice usually involves a surgeon begin to train using a robotic system once they have qualified as a consultant. Professor Alan Horgan, consultant colorectal surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals, and co-director of the Newcastle Surgical Training Centre, explained that "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".
Establishing the training programme meant that the North East was "the only region where we are offering all trainees the chance to become skilled at robotic surgery", he said.
Intuitive said it had trained more than 66,000 surgeons worldwide to use the da Vinci system. In October 2022, the company, which has its UK base in Oxford, was awarded accreditation by the Royal College of Surgeons of England "in recognition of outstanding surgery-related education ".
Training will take place at the Freeman Hospital, where the surgical training centre is based. Trainees will use Intuitive's digital learning platform in conjunction with an app, called My Intuitive, which provides them access to their operational data, performance trends, learning progress, and the opportunity to share data with mentors. In an interview earlier this month, Professor Horgan said this approach worked well for the younger generation. "They’re used to video games, so they have the technical dexterity and they feel comfortable doing something while looking at a screen rather than the patient," he told The Times.
Successful completion of all four phases of the programme will lead to a training equivalent certificate being awarded, demonstrating technical competence on the robotic system.
One of the trainees enrolled on the programme is Abraham Joel, a senior registrar in upper GI Surgery, who described robotic-assisted surgery as "the gold standard of care", welcomed the ability to track progress against the curriculum.
David Marante, regional director at Intuitive UK and Ireland, said: "We look forward to working with this cohort of trainees over the next 3 years who represent the future of surgery here in the UK."