'Landmark' robotic surgery programme launched for cancer patients in Wales

A robotic-assisted surgery programme that will help surgeons perform complex procedures with more precision is being introduced in Wales, the Health Minister has announced.

The All-Wales Robotic Assisted Surgery Network involves the use of highly advanced robotic instruments under the control of a surgeon and aims to provide less invasive surgery for cancer patients.

It will initially be used for some colorectal, upper gastrointestinal, urological and gynaecological cancers.

Latest figures show 58% of cancer patients started their first definitive treatment within 62 days of it first being suspected - the second lowest since comparable figures began in June 2019 and below the target of 75%.

But the number of patients beginning cancer treatment was the highest since 2019.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan met with those involved in the programme's rollout. Credit: Welsh Government

The first patient is expected to receive robotic surgery in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area in June.

The Welsh Government has announced £4.2m of funding over five years to support the network, alongside £13.35m provided by health boards over 10 years.

Eluned Morgan MS 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."

'We'll start off with certain treatments but we hope that this will be rolled out to surgery across the board', the Health Minister says

Once fully established, the Welsh Government said 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 surgery from June - adding to the capacity of its existing robot - and other health boards across Wales are expected to follow.

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."

'Robotics capture the imagination and the effects can be widespread', Jared Torkington says

Dr Mark Slack, Chief Medical Officer of CMR Surgical, which will provide the equipment, said the "landmark move" will offer surgeons and patients access to "life-changing innovation".

Robotic surgery can result in a smaller wound, less blood loss, shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery compared to open surgery, a consultant at Ysbyty Gwynedd said.

Mr Mohamed Abdulmajed added that he is "confident that the provision of robotic surgery in north Wales will help to recruit and retain staff."

He hopes to increase the amount of robotic surgery available to cancer patients in north Wales by providing training for staff locally.

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