NTP Briefing Document

Executive Summary

The Lapco National Training Programme (NTP) in Laparoscopic Colorectal Surgery (LCS) is a unique training programme for Consultants in England.  It was intended to train enough colorectal surgeons in LCS to a level of independence in routine colonic resections and to give all patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer in England access to an appropriately trained surgeon. LAPCO will shortly be coming to an end in March 2013 after 4 years of training activity. In 2006, less than 5% of colorectal resections were being undertaken laparoscopically. The latest HES data shows that this has risen to 40% (Hospital Episode Statistics 2012), which is a world leading figure of implementation. LAPCO has engaged with over 200 Colorectal Consultants in England. Over 1,800 theatre training sessions have been recorded on-line since March 2009. There are Lapco trainees and trainers in 61% of hospital trusts in England. There are compelling reasons why Lapco should continue beyond March 2013.


The National Training Programme (NTP) in Laparoscopic Colorectal Surgery (LAPCO) is funded by the National Cancer Action Team at the Department of Health to provide LCS training for consultants in England. It was established following the 2006 NICE Guidance ( that stated that laparoscopic (including laparoscopically assisted) resection is recommended as an alternative to open resection.

Establishing Lapco

The establishment of the LAPCO programme was led by Professor Sir Mike Richards, Director of National Cancer Action Team in 2007/2008.  The programme comprises 11 training centres throughout England established geographically around the location of laparoscopic colorectal experts. National Coordination takes place in Plymouth, led by the National Clinical Lead Mark Coleman. In March 2009 Laura Langsford was appointed as the National Programme Manager, supported by a National Programme Administrator.

Structure of Training and Assessment

The education and research team at Imperial College, led by Professor George Hanna has been involved with the programme since its inception, and they initially projected that between 20-25 separate training cases would be required by each consultant before the standard of competency would be reached. These cases are undertaken either on an “in reach” basis (at the trainers hospital base) or on an “out reach” basis (at the trainees hospital base). After each training session, the trainee and the trainer complete their own on line Global Assessment Score (GAS) form through the LAPCO web site at  The GAS form breaks the procedure down into 13 stages, the trainee self assesses their performance, and the trainer completes their assessment which can be viewed by the trainee. Learning curve software has been incorporated into the web site to allow a trainees progress to be viewed by a separate procedure, or by total training recorded.  Imperial College reported in May 2010 that the performance of mentored Lapco trainees produced better results than self-taught surgeons when comparing conversions and complication rates.

Once the volume of cases has been recorded the trainer recommends that the consultant is ready to be invited to undertake the “Sign Off” process. This involves the submission of 2 separate recorded cases on DVD which are anonomised and independently assessed by two assessors using the bespoke-designed L-CAT (Laparoscopic Colorectal Assessment Tool). A successful sign-off from the National Training Programme became a Peer Review Measure in March 2010.

What has Lapco achieved?

What have we done? - The Training Position

LAPCO currently has 42 trainees signed off, 41 trainees have been invited to sign off, 50 trainees are completing their training and are aiming to submit their DVDs by the end of 2012. A total of 67 trainers have provided over 1,800 GAS forms since clinical activity commenced in April 2009.

Lapco and safety - Benefits for Patients

The programme offers hands-on training in the operating theatre. During training we have collected prospective data on clinical outcomes for patients operated on by surgeons in training. These data show that no harm comes to patients as a result of being operated on by surgeons in training. The hospital stay and complications rates are comparable to those published by acknowledged experts in LCS.

Lapco and Health Economics – financial benefits

In 2012, Professor Peter Smith, Head of Health Policy and a mathematician at Imperial College, London conducted a detailed health economic analysis of the financial benefits of the programme. He concluded that, in terms of the avoidance of preventable negative outcomes and reduced hospital stay when comparing mentored to non-mentored training to disseminate a new technique across a health care system, that Lapco presented a potential financial benefit to the tax payer of over £11 million.

Summary - What has Lapco Achieved?

  • Established a “blueprint” for delivery of safe, structured training with rigorous sign off assessment.
  • Increased elective LCS in England from less than 5% in 2006 to 40% in 2012 (HES Data).
  • Provided a well managed, cohesive and respected world leading clinical training programme.
  • Advised on Colorectal Peer Review measures and NICE Guidance waiver (TA105).
  • Set a unitised, transparent and equitable rate to funding training activity.

Prepared by Mark Coleman MD FRCS
LAPCO National Clinical Lead
07789 873190 

Laura Langsford

LAPCO National Programme Manager
07598 340000