When TV’s Dr Hilary Jones was in his 20s he loved nothing more than a fast-paced game of squash
However the hours he spent pounding around the court had an unwanted consequence – a knee injury so serious that Hilary was told he would need surgery to fix it.
“I had my first knee operation in 1976 when I was just 23,” says Hilary, who lives in Kent with his partner Dee.
“I had an operation with open surgery where surgeons had to cut open the whole joint to repair the cartilage I had damaged by playing squash.”
It took four months of painful rehabilitation before Hilary was back to full health. Fast-forward 30 years and Hilary needed the same operation on his other knee.
This time, thanks to technological developments, the procedure could be done via keyhole surgery.
“I was walking within hours of the operation,” he says.
“I was rehabilitated in a month, there was no scar at all and I was told that with this procedure there is much less risk of future arthritis. “That is an example of how new technology is really helping patients to better health.”
The popular TV doctor, whose straightforward medical advice on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Lorraine has won him an army of devoted fans, has been keen to champion the technological advances in surgery and medicine that have transformed the NHS over the past few decades.
“Medical advances mean that everyday procedures are changing all the time,” he says.
“We are now using robots to carry out more accurate surgery on prostate tumours and on procedures to ensure hip replacements are better located, for example,” he says.
Barbara Harpham, chair of the Medical Technology Group, an industry-funded group, says that medical devices can offer real benefits to patients.
“Better imaging of the body enables more accurate surgery, which in turn decreases the risk of post-operative infection too.”
Hilary is keen to point out that he and his family have benefited from these high-tech developments.
“Eight years ago I had a procedure called an electron tomography. A dye was injected in a vein to show how much calcification I had in my arteries.”
“The procedure is more accurate than cholesterol or EGG tests and showed, reassuringly, that I had a calcification score of zero.”
In the same year Hilary also avoided disc surgery on his lower back by having an MRI scan.
“This helped doctors decide that injections of corticosteroids into the affected area of his spine would be a better option. Four years ago he had cutting edge laser eye surgery, using a technique called blended vision.
“During this treatment a computer scans the eyes and accurately calculates what surgery is needed to the cornea of each eye. And this summer Hilary bravely opted to watch his own shoulder being operated on.
“The surgeon gave me a nerve block in my neck at my request so I could see him repairing the tendon and shaving the under-surface of the joint,” he says.
“Again, it was very successful keyhole surgery and I was back home the next day and in work and fully recovered a month later.”
Dr Hilary’s family are also benefiting from high-tech devices to improve health monitoring.
“My mother Noreen, who is 90, wears a sensor bracelet on her wrist that will detect if she has a stumble or a fall,” says Hilary.
“If it detects a fall, the sensor will automatically send a signal to the emergency services who will call her to ask if she is okay,” he explains.
“My eldest son Tristan, who is also a GP, has Type 1 diabetes. He wears a skin patch that he can scan with a device to tell him his blood sugar levels. He also uses a pump to deliver insulin to his body, so he is really benefitting from new advances in technology.”
While new technology procedures are revolutionising the medical world, Hilary is keen to stress it will never take the place of compassion, human contact and a bit of TLC.
“Doctors will always need to offer their patients those qualities, while being up-to-date with medical advances,” he says.
“Patients shouldn’t also be thinking that medical advances mean that we don’t need to monitor our own health or can abandon good habits. We have to encourage every person to put their health first and to exercise, with moderate eating and drinking in order to stay as well and healthy as possible.”
“There are already over half a million different medical devices available and this existing technology, as well as exciting future advances, offers real benefits to patients, society and the health service,” he says.
“It can keep people out of hospital and active in the workplace, in the community or caring for their families while improving their quality of life.”
“It might sound like science fiction but pioneering new approaches such as an ‘intelligent’ knife for surgeons, gold nanoparticles to deliver drugs and blood tests to monitor patients are helping to personalise treatment and care,” she says.
“Medical technology is here to stay,” says Hilary.
“Patients should embrace new options available to us all. My family and I are already benefiting from the new advances and hopefully we will have profound breakthroughs in the way major degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and Alzheimer’s as well as cancer are treated.”
Dr Hilary Jones recently gave consultations for commuters via telepresence robots to mark the launch of new cutting-edge medical drama Pure Genius. The TV show broadcasts weekly on Wednesdays at 9pm, only on Universal Channel.