THERE has been a quiet revolution going on at Poole Hospital in the way patients needing bowel cancer surgery are treated.

And at its heart is now a new state-of-the-art operating theatre – opened by mayor of Poole Charles Meachin – which will enable surgeons to carry out sophisticated keyhole surgery on a range of conditions.

The development has been spearheaded by recently appointed consultant laparoscopic surgeon Tas Qureshi, who said: “We are delighted to be one of just a couple of hospitals on the South Coast with such a facility.”

The theatre boasts four manoeuvrable screens, each equipped with touch-screen technology and voice-activated controls.

Images are displayed in high definition, giving surgeons a clearer view.

Multimedia facilities also make it possible for medical professionals and students to observe operations from other sites, aiding training, and for surgeons in the theatre to communicate instantly with colleagues outside.

“The government are saying that by 2012, everyone with colorectal cancer should be offered laparoscopic surgery. There are 700 colorectal surgeons in the country and probably 50 to 100 doing what we’re doing here,” said Mr Qureshi.

He explained that traditional surgery meant anything up to a 30cm incision and 10-14 days in hospital, while keyhole surgery involved three or four tiny cuts, fewer side-effects from anaesthetic, less chance of infection, and only three or four days in hospital.

“After the operation, there’s less pain. Patients can get up and walk around and start eating and drinking straight away. It isn’t about saving money: that’s a by-product. It’s about enhancing people’s recovery and improving their outcome.

One 87-year-old patient was home cleaning his drains four days after his operation.”

Even the dreaded “bowel prep” – where patients are given medication and starved to clear the gut in readiness for surgery – is no more. Instead, they are given high-protein and high-calorie drinks before and after to boost their recovery.

Following their operation, patients are encouraged to wear their own clothes on the ward and to help themselves to buffet breakfasts and drinks. A team of staff, including nurses, physiotherapists, healthcare assistants and occupational therapists are involved in their care.

Angela Jones, 67, from Hamworthy, was the first patient to go through the advanced recovery programme in June last year.

“The next morning I was up walking about. I was given paracetamol, but I didn’t have any pain at all. It was absolutely fantastic,” she said.

Website designer Laurence Prestage, 63, of Lymington, was picked up through NHS screening towards the end of last year.

“When they told me I had bowel cancer, it was just devastating. Tas did the operation in January. He’s my hero. I was out of hospital in four days.”