Increasing the use of robotics in surgery could help to make operations more efficient and reduce the length of time patients need to spend in hospital, the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) has said.
Robotic-assisted surgery is already being used in many types of operations and has been shown to have benefits including reduced blood loss and pain, more efficient use of anaesthetics and shorter hospital stays.
RCS England said it has the potential to give greater precision during operations; result in fewer blood transfusions; free up hospital beds; increase patient satisfaction, and reduce recovery time.
However, despite the rapid growth in its usage, there are no formal processes for providing robotic training in the UK or Europe, or expanding its use in hospitals. Unregulated adoption also has the potential to lead to varied accessibility, outcomes and could increase the risk of patient harm.
In a new guide, ‘Robotic assisted surgery – A pathway to the future‘, RCS England looks at the potential future application of robotics and makes recommendations to improve governance practices in order to expand the safe adoption of robotic surgery in UK hospitals.
It proposes the development of a structured pathway for established surgeons who want to transition to robotic-assisted surgery.
Despite the centralised approaches in Wales and Scotland, the current lack of a national strategy in England and Northern Ireland has meant that the use of robotics is often based on local availability, resources and expertise, rather than patient suitability and care.
Also, there are currently no nationally recognised standards for established surgeons and surgical teams. Services who wish to transition from open or conventional minimally invasive surgery to an autonomous robotic assisted surgical practice do not have consistent guidance, the guide warned.
RCS England said it wants to help develop a set of national training standards in order to bolster the readiness of the workforce to use the new technology.
Miss Nuha Yassin, RCS England council lead for the future of surgery, said: “This timely new guidance will support the safe and structured introduction of robotic assisted surgery – and the fruitful collaboration between hospitals, surgeons and industry.
“It’s important for the surgical profession, led by RCS England, in collaboration with the surgical speciality associations, to take charge of all processes, accredit training centres and pathways and facilitate equity in access and training.
“To benefit from the potential advantages, any investment in purchasing robots needs to be accompanied by proper planning for its introduction into the service with a focus on training, quality assurance and efficiency. This also needs to acknowledge the variable learning curve which can be long for some surgeons and theatre teams before these efficiencies can be observed at a large scale.”
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.