The Surgical Innovation Centre is a world leader in solving healthcare problems, aiming to develop new techniques such as “scarless surgery” and training surgeons to spread their use in order to bring 21st century surgical care to NHS patients throughout the UK.

On his first visit to the College, HRH The Prince of Wales also visited the Health Innovation Exchange (HELIX) pop-up studio, located on the St Mary’s Campus, before formally opening the Surgical Innovation Centre, a joint initiative with the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The HELIX is a unique pop-up studio in London harnessing the power of design to transform approaches to key diseases in the NHS and prevent everyday healthcare problems.

Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, who brings together the activities of HELIX and the Surgical Innovation Centre through his role as Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, said:

“We are delighted that HRH The Prince of Wales has visited the Surgical Innovation Centre. The NHS is under considerable pressure in meeting the challenge of shifting patient demographics, the burden of life style disease and financial constraints. Innovation through better technologies, processes and design can help address the challenges facing health care delivery globally. Surgery is one area which has thrived with innovation over the last two decades and the Surgical Innovation Centre will push these boundaries further.”

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Design solutions for healthcare problems were presented in the HELIX ‘pop-up’ studio

HELIX is a joint collaboration between the Royal College of Art and Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, and is funded by HEFCE.

The HELIX pop-up studio, which opened this month is uniquely embedded within a public hospital. In its innovative working space, scientists, engineers, designers, policy makers and psychologists work together with doctors, nurses and patients to explore and co-develop new ideas into prototype products, processes and services.

In the studio HRH The Prince of Wales saw a smartphone app to encourage children with asthma to correctly monitor their condition and improve treatment compliance; a design intervention to improve patient cancer care; a design-led approach to improve uptake in bowel cancer screening; and a card game to promote physical activity.

At the heart of the Surgical Innovation Centre are two laparoscopic theatres for patients to benefit from the latest techniques in minimally invasive surgery such as robotics and image guidance surgery, and the first Da Vinci robotic programme in the UK, which aids surgeons in performing enhanced remote surgery. The Centre is the UK’s leading facility in bariatric surgery such as gastric bypass for morbid obesity. The Centre also specialises in scarless surgery for cancer.

HRH The Prince of Wales was introduced to staff who work in the Surgical Innovation Centre and patients who are undergoing treatment there.

Over the past year, nearly 2,000 patients have been treated in the Surgical Innovation Centre. As well as using innovative techniques to enable patients to be ready to go home sooner, the Centre also improves patient experience by providing consultation, diagnosis and treatment planning in the same place on the same day.

The Surgical Innovation Centre’s research programme directly benefits patients treated at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and aims to influence best practice across the NHS. Before formally opening the Centre, HRH The Prince of Wales visited two of its units which conduct cutting-edge research: The Hamlyn Centre for healthcare technology, which is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for medical robotics in the UK, and the Evelyn de Rothschild Clinical Skills Centre and Chitra Nirmal Sethia Technology and Training Hub.

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HRH The Prince of Wales greeted Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, who funded the centre’s clinical skills training facilities, and Imperial’s President Professor Alice Gast

Dr Paul Thompson, Co-Director of HELIX and Rector of the Royal College of Art, said:

“HELIX brings together design researchers and clinical staff to tackle the big demands today in healthcare. As with previous collaborations with Imperial College London, such as the redesign of the London NHS emergency ambulance, we know that real medical breakthroughs occur when people-centred design innovation and scientific rigour collide. It was wonderful to be able to showcase our work to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, particularly as his interest in healthcare is very much evidenced by his Patronage of many related charities and institutions.”

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, added:

“Imperial College London collaborates with partners all over the world, and the HELIX is a wonderful example of our partnership with our closest neighbour, the Royal College of Art. We excel at collaborating across disciplines and the Surgical Innovation Centre is proof of the positive impact this work can have on the healthcare outcomes of its patients.”

Dr Tracey Batten, Chief Executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“The Surgical Innovation Centre is a great example of innovation delivering rapid, practical benefits to patients through collaboration between the NHS and academia. We are working to ensure this approach becomes the norm across all of our services and beyond to our partners across north west London.”

The Surgical Innovation Centre is a unique surgical facility which embodies clinical excellence, translational research and education and training in one location. This is achieved through the shared mission of the Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, a joint initiative of Imperial College London, rated one of the world’s best universities, and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

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“My great, great, great grandfather Prince Albert would have been thrilled at this level of collaboration” — The Prince of Wales opening the Surgical Innovation Centre