Innovative programme helps train more doctors in robotic-assisted surgery


A new training pilot has been devised by our Sir Thomas Browne Colorectal Unit and Intuitive, the pioneer of robotic-assisted surgery and makers of the da Vinci surgical systems. This has enabled surgical registrars, on the path to becoming consultants and who have had many years of surgical experience, to complete the training necessary in order to carry out bowel cancer operations on our two da Vinci systems.

From February of this year, several surgical registrars, based here, took part in this robotic surgery training programme, which was championed by Mr Irshad Shaikh, Consultant Colorectal and lead Robotic Surgeon here, and supported by Intuitive.

Mr Shaikh, who teaches robotic surgery nationally and has helped the robotic colorectal programme in ten UK hospitals, said: “I have consistently found that the registrar level trainees are left out in this programme and worked together with Intuitive to devise this training programme. I am very proud of the East of England deanery surgical registrars for successfully completing the first phase of robotic colorectal surgical training and delivering this first national pilot programme at NNUH.”

Eleanor Rudge, who took part in the pilot, said: “There are plenty of hospitals within the UK that have access to robotic-assisted surgery, and yet surgical registrars at these hospitals often get very little actual robotic experience. However, we are lucky enough to have someone like Mr Shaikh, who has the vision, the know-how and the enthusiasm, which have all been key to allowing us access to this incredible opportunity. We have also had the support of the entire colorectal unit at NNUH – as a registrar group, we have worked in many hospitals in the region and it is very obvious to all of us that the support of this department is exceptional.”

Sam Hettiarachchi, who was also on the training programme, added: “It has been very exciting to be part of. It is really satisfying to do this surgery and the handling of the controls is a really good feeling. We are used to doing these procedures as keyhole or open surgery and we also have back-up from two experienced surgeons in the room.”