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20 February, 2020 - 00:03 By Tony Quested

CMR cracks £139bn NHS market with revolutionary surgical robotics system

The NHS, nursing a £139.3 billion budget this year, has embraced transformative keyhole surgery technology from Cambridge unicorn CMR Surgical.

Hospitals in Edinburgh and Milton Keynes have become the first in the UK to perform operations using CMR’s Versius robotics arm.

The latest generation Versius has initially been used to perform a range of colorectal surgeries, helping to treat patients with serious bowel disease or bowel cancer. 

The first NHS hospital to use Versius was The Western General Hospital in Edinburgh (one of four hospitals in the NHS Lothian Health Board), followed by Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Trust in Buckinghamshire. 

They are the first to use Versius in Europe; however, further NHS hospitals are scheduled to introduce the system in 2020. These include both large teaching hospitals and smaller local centres and could open the door to a much wider use of robotic MAS than seen to date. 

As a portable system, Versius is designed to help increase minimal access procedures, offering the potential for better patient outcomes, NHS savings and more bed space.

Business Weekly revealed last May that NHS chair Lord David Prior promised to champion the technology across UK hospitals.

Fired up CMR is targeting a highly lucrative international market; global annual revenues for robot-assisted MAS are approximately $4bn currently but are anticipated to reach $20bn by 2025.

MAS – also referred to as keyhole or laparoscopic surgery – is associated with a number of potential benefits compared to open surgery, including the ability to reduce rates of surgical site infections, pain and scarring.

It is estimated that only one-third of procedures that could be performed laparoscopically in the UK are. Across Europe currently only 13 per cent of hysterectomy procedures are conducted laparoscopically. In addition, 800,000 cases of surgical site infection across all surgical procedures have been recorded, costing health systems millions.

MAS is also linked to faster recovery in hospital, with fewer post-operative bed days required for recovery.

A 2018 report by the Office of Health Economics found that a shift to MAS led to a reduction in the average length of stays for gynaecology patients from 5.5 days to just 1.5 days in 95 per cent of cases.

Versius has been carefully designed to enhance how surgeons perform MAS procedures including for major gynaecological and colorectal surgery. Three independent arms, which replicate those of a human in size and shape, are coupled with 3D visualisation and unique instrument controls that allow the surgeon to mimic their own human movement, enabling precise surgeries while also making long procedures less strenuous. 

As part of the introduction of Versius, a clinical registry has been established to provide a database of patient outcomes information to support patient safety, as well as technical data that can support assisted learning and help optimise Versius’ use in the future.  

Biomimicking the human arm, Versius allows surgeons the freedom of port placement, but with the benefits of small fully-wristed instruments. With 3D HD vision, easy-to adopt instrument control and a choice of ergonomic working positions, the new open surgeon console has the potential to reduce stress and fatigue and extend the careers of surgeons.

CMR Surgical provides a robust training programme to the full surgical team as part of its offering. This comprises of a bespoke online portal; Versius trainer for surgeons; residential training and peer to peer support.

Mark Slack, chief medical officer at CMR Surgical, said: “We set out to design a system that was versatile, portable and cost-effective and it is immensely rewarding to see it now being used in the NHS – one of the most thorough and clinically rigorous health systems in the world.” 

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