Financial constraints on the NHS could lead to doctors operating on patients with outdated equipment, surgeons have warned.

Necessary investment in pioneering surgical techniques and technology is in danger of being overlooked as the NHS seeks to make £20 billion of efficiency savings before 2015, the Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ALSGBI) said.

The association made the warning after an audit of theatre equipment used in keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery.

The ALSGBI found that only 15 per cent of keyhole surgery theatres meet the highest standards for equipment safety and design.

And despite HD televisions being commonplace in living rooms, almost a quarter (22 per cent) of hospitals do not have high-definition imaging screens readily available to use for surgeons.

ALSGBI president Professor Timothy Rockall said: “It is worrying that surgeons are still having to use equipment which may limit the operations they can perform safely.

“You can’t buy a non-HD television on the high street even if you wanted to and yet in our hospitals we see old and poor quality television screens being used for complex operations.

“We hope the result of this audit encourages surgeons and management to discuss upgrading their equipment to improve standards and to reassure patients that the best service is being provided.”

Keyhole surgery is a type of surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.