Milton Keynes doctors among first in Europe to use pioneering robot for surgery

Next-generation surgical robots have been hailed by doctors as "a leap forward in surgical precision" in the UK.

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Trust in Buckinghamshire was among the first in Europe to use the new Versius robotic arm technology. Western General Hospital in Edinburgh was the first.

The tool is used to perform minimal access surgery - also known as keyhole or laparoscopic surgery. It could reduce patient recovery times and pain.

It is initially being used to perform a range of colorectal surgeries, helping

to treat those with bowel disease or bowel cancer.

Versius mimics a human arm, working in a similar way to a computer games

console, with the ability to move and rotate its "wrists" in a unique fashion.

CMR Surgical, the British medical firm behind the technology, says the development could cut the need for one additional doctor during operations, freeing up stretched NHS staff to carry out care elsewhere.

"It is a leap forward in surgical precision meaning patients recover faster and ultimately get home sooner," said Doug Speake, consultant colorectal surgeon at NHS Lothian.

"It is better for the patients and it is actually better for us."

NHS Lothian has already treated around 30 patients using the technology since November.

Lord Prior, NHS England chair, said: "It's fantastic that the NHS is the first in Europe to use the next generation of surgical robots, and yet another example of how the NHS is teaming up with Britain's excellent engineering sector to deliver world-class care."

CMR Surgical says the two NHS sites could be used to carry out as many as 700 minimal access surgeries each year.

The company's chief medical officer Mark Slack told the PA news agency it is already in talks with other NHS trusts about deploying the tool more widely.