A British surgeon has been carrying out brain operations in the Ukraine using a drill designed for DIY tasks.

Henry Marsh, a consultant at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London, has been visiting Kiev twice a year to assist a colleague, Igor Petrovich, at a neurology clinic.

In Britain Mr Marsh would use a £30,000 medical drill driven by compressed air. But equipment in the Ukrainian capital is so scarce that the men have been using a £30 Bosch RSR960 to drill holes through patients’ skulls.

Many of the operations, such as those to remove tumours, are done without general anaesthetic – a common practice in this type of surgery. By talking to the patient, surgeons can gauge precisely how far they can go without damaging vulnerable parts of the brain.

Mr Marsh has now taken a drill designed for medical use to Kiev. “I’m not recommending that we should all use Bosch do-it-yourself drills in England,” Mr Marsh said. “But it shows how with improvisation you can achieve a lot. I’ve taught [Mr Petrovich] everything I know. Now he’s able to do things that I can’t.”

Mr Marsh appears in a documentary, The English Surgeon, to be shown on BBC Two on March 30.