Watford General Celebrates 100th Robot-Assisted Operation in UK’s First Virtual Hospital

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Watford General Celebrates 100th Robot-Assisted Operation in UK’s First Virtual Hospital

Watford General Hospital is the UK’s first virtual hospital set up in 2020 to help alleviate the demand for beds for Covid patients.

West Herts Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has achieved a milestone of completing its 100th robotically assisted surgeries in a mere seven months since acquiring two advanced robotic systems. This has enabled patients to benefit from faster and less painful recoveries.

This innovative concept is now set to be rolled out nationally, with the Government publishing a delivery plan at the end of January.

The next milestone for the programme is to reach 400 cases by the end of the year.

Robotic-assisted surgery provides many advantages to patients, such as lower post-operative pain and a quicker recovery period. This could result in a day-long decrease in hospital time.

Consultant Colorectal Surgeon Mr Vanash Patel said “There are no other trusts in the UK that have reached 100 cases so quickly using this ‘Versius’ robotic system. This is a fantastic achievement for the trust and great for patients too.”

He went on to thank MP Dean Russell for joining our celebrations to mark this milestone. What a fantastic achievement! 🎉

The MP said: “I am proud to see Watford is leading the way in transforming patient care with the use of innovative technology.

Hospital at Home plan

Clinical staff in the virtual hospital hub (image Hertfordshire and West Essex)

It is expected that up to 50,000 patients a month could benefit from the “hospital at home” plans by the end of 2023/24.

This is a game-changing development that will have a positive impact on healthcare provision in the UK.

The concept of virtual hospitals was first developed at Watford General Hospital in 2020 in order to prevent it from being overwhelmed by the demand for beds for Covid patients. This plan was so successful that it’s now being implemented across the country.

The hospital at home plan will allow patients to receive medical care from the comfort of their own homes, reducing the strain on hospitals and allowing more people to receive the care they need.

This is especially beneficial for those with underlying health conditions or the elderly, who are more vulnerable to the virus and would be put at risk by attending a hospital.

The hospital at home plan will include nurses and doctors delivering medication to patients’ homes, as well as virtual consultations and even hospital-level care. This will help to reduce the burden on NHS staff, who are already struggling due to the pandemic.

West Herts NHS Trust medical director Dr Niall Keenan said: “We are proud of our pioneering work in virtual wards both in the hospital and with community partners.

“We have shown that these can make a major impact to clinical care, are safe and are highly acceptable to patients who, in general, would rather be cared for at home than be in hospital.

“We have embraced the opportunities that new technologies have given us in this area.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay speaks to staff as he visits Watford General Hospital. (Picture by Lauren Hurley / Department of Health and Social Care)

Dr Niall Keenan, Clinical Lead for the virtual hospital said, “The service is a great example of how our partners of South and West Hertfordshire HCP are working together and integrating services to make patient experience better and improving care. There is a true meeting of hearts and minds, with everyone working together to achieve the same goals. We are delighted for the work of our virtual hospital to be recognised in this way and hope we might even inspire other colleagues across the UK to pursue and put their ideas and innovations into practice too!”. 

HSJ editor Alastair McLellan, comments, “On behalf of all my colleagues, it gives me great pleasure to congratulate South and West Hertfordshire Health and Care Partnership on being shortlisted as a finalist in the category of Place-Based Partnership Award.

In July 2022, CMR Surgical unveiled their new robotic technology to perform surgeries in various fields such as colorectal and upper gastrointestinal surgery, urology, and gynaecology. Since then, these robots have been used to perform surgeries all around the world.

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