Surgical robots ‘will transform treatment for cancer patients’

The robots are capable of making significantly smaller incisions than in traditional surgery.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf has insisted the remobilisation of the NHS in the wake of Covid is his top priority as he announced a £20m investment in surgical robots to help treat cancer patients.

The NHS will get another ten of the hi-tech devices, with Yousaf saying they will “transform” treatment for hundreds of patients each year and also reduce waiting times.

During a visit to Glasgow Royal Infirmary to see the technology in action, the health secretary was shown how they are operated by a surgeon within a special console in the theatre.

The robots are capable of making significantly smaller incisions than in traditional surgery, which reduces the risk of complications, shortens recovery times and allows more patients to be treated.

The new devices, procured by National Services Scotland, mean the NHS in Scotland now has 13 surgical robots.

They have typically been used for prostate cancer surgery and some chest operations, but the increase in the number of robots available means they can also now be utilised on patients with colorectal, gynaecological, urological, thoracic and head and neck cancer.

Yousaf said: “This new technology will transform the experience of surgery for hundreds of patients every year, while easing the pressure on surgeons with shorter procedures that are less physically demanding to carry out.

“They will also reduce waiting times and provide us with regular data so we can continue to improve our health service.”

The new surgical robots will be located in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian, NHS Tayside, NHS Grampian, NHS Fife, NHS Highland and at the NHS Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank.

Yousaf said: “Thanks to the expertise of National Services Scotland, we have been able to ensure equal access to health boards across the country, making this technology available to as many people as possible.

“Crucially, these robotic systems will help to attract a broader pool of surgeons to work here, so we can build a stronger NHS Scotland for the future.”

Claire Donaghy, from the charity Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Surgery is the most common treatment for bowel cancer, which is Scotland’s third most common cancer, and central to curing the disease.

“But it’s often open surgery, which can mean a long recovery time for patients.

“Robotic-assisted surgery is less invasive and can reduce the time spent in hospital recovering by up to five days.

“We’re delighted the Scottish Government has invested in additional robotic-assisted surgical systems so more people across the country have access to this innovative technology.”

Yousaf also discussed NHS remobilisation and the impact of the new Delta variant of the coronavirus.

He said: “We are at the early days of the Delta variant, we’re not at the peak.

“We hope that when we get to that peak we still see that link weakening between rising cases and hospitalisation.

“So the positive news is if that continues, we can hopefully stay within the levels (of restrictions) that we’re in.”

He added: “The hope so far, my discussions with clinicians tell me, is that we hopefully won’t see the same level of hospitalisation we saw in the Alpha (Kent) variant, that put really significant pressure on the NHS.”

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