Training During The Pandemic

By Professor Nader Francis

This unprecedented pandemic has significantly impacted on our lives via a number of aspects. In addition to the many lives we lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a number of patients who were unable to access healthcare systems on time, resulting in delayed diagnosis and/or treatment during the pandemic and lockdown. This has resulted in a large backlog which is adding a significant pressure on our healthcare services and representing a challenge to fulfil our training duties.

Amid the pandemic, training has suddenly become a secondary issue and best offers so far from training bodies are the reduction of the expected learning objective targets, in order to lessen the pressure on the learners as well as the trainers. This, however, will not sort out the problem of lack of training opportunities which may carry serious impact on surgical training and patient safety going forward.

In recent years, there has been an increase in public and professional scrutiny of surgical performance and patient safety. My fear is that the reduced training opportunity during the pandemic may impact on a whole entire generation in relation to surgical training and competency, especially in advanced surgical skills, such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery. Therefore, efforts are required from all parties to provide strategies that can help and support training in those areas during this difficult time.

Over the past few months during the pandemic, I am very pleased to report that The Griffin Institute (formerly NPIMR) has managed to remain open and be able to offer training opportunities to healthcare professionals during this difficult time. I feel that it was essential to resume training and keep the advanced surgical skills maintained during the pandemic.

Training in a lab environment, however, must be offered in a safe environment.  At The Griffin Institute, we have made all efforts to restructure our training centre to comply with observing social distancing, as well as provision of Personal Protection Equipment to all staff, learners and trainers.

Considering the challenges to travel abroad amid the pandemic, it was essential to make all efforts to facilitate the advanced training in the UK.  Traditionally, surgeons seeking robotic training, travel to Europe, but since this option was not feasible given the quarantine restrictions, I am pleased that we are now able to offer such training opportunities here in London. This has been only possible of course with our partnership with Industry leaders to be able to offer robotic, endoscopic and laparoscopic courses using human cadaver and other models across all specialities.

We, at The Griffin Institute, are determined that the valuable work of our staff, and in partnership with other organisations and industries, will continue at this time, in order to care for our surgeons and healthcare professionals, for the benefit of our patients.