NI health board considers introducing robotic prostate surgery

Inside a hospital operating theatre

Northern Ireland’s health officials are considering offering a robotic-assisted surgery treatment for prostate cancer that is already available in England.

To date, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has spent £1m sending more than 170 Northern Ireland patients to Cambridge to receive the treatment.

The charity, Prostate Cancer UK, has called on the board to “urgently review access” to all prostate surgery.

The HSCB said a decision is due in the autumn but will depend on funding.

Robotic-assisted prostatectomy is a type of keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery, also called da Vinci surgery, in which a surgeon carries out the procedure using a special machine.

It is just one of the methods used to treat prostate cancer but it is not offered in Northern Ireland as no hospital has the robot.

However, other treatments including radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy, are available in Northern Ireland.

The HSCB currently supports patients from Northern Ireland who wish to receive the robotic surgery, funding them to go to the Robotic Prostate Centre at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.

Increasing numbers of patients are choosing to do that and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said it has sent 116 patients since April 2016.