More than 900 islanders are on the waiting list for an endoscopy.
Bowel Cancer Guernsey chairwoman Anne Brouard said islanders who were concerned should not have to feel put off by waiting times.
‘Bowel Cancer Guernsey is concerned by reports of delays for gastroenterital appointments and procedures and hopes that urgent action will be taken to resolve the issue,’ she said.
‘It is important that islanders are not put off from taking action because of any reported delays and we urge anyone who has any concerns regarding their health to visit their GP.’
Detecting bowel cancer early is important for effective treatment, so the long waiting lists are causing concern.
‘Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Guernsey, but if detected early enough, over 90% of those diagnosed with early-stage bowel cancer are successfully treated,’ Ms Brouard said.
Medical Specialist Group chief executive Jon Buckland said the waiting times were caused by the lasting impact of Covid restrictions, coupled with staff and bed shortages.
‘We are very much aware of the issues with the gastroenterology service, and I apologise to all patients who are waiting longer than they should to see the gastroenterologist or for a procedure such as endoscopy,’ he said.
‘There are several factors that contribute to the waiting times, such as staff or bed shortages at the hospital and the impact of Covid, many of which are outside our control.’
At the end of March there were 910 patients on the endoscopy waiting list, a procedure which inserts a camera to look inside the body, which was particularly affected by Covid restrictions.
‘We are working closely with our colleagues at Health & Social Care to help improve the situation,’ Mr Buckland added.
Despite low numbers of gastroenterologists in the UK, he said provision had been maintained in Guernsey.
MSG has been trying to recruit a full-time consultant for the past six months, and has been using locums in the meantime.
‘There have been virtually no gaps in the provision of a consultant gastroenterologist.
MSG’s locum gastroenterologist leaves this week, and he will be replaced by another experienced locum from the UK.’
Mr Buckland said it had been difficult to attract suitably-experienced gastroenterologists to the island because of the wide range of expertise required to practice in Guernsey, exacerbated by a UK-wide gastroenterologist shortage.
The British Society of Gastroenterology said in its 2021 workforce report, published earlier this year, that there were 1,700 substantive consultant gastroenterologists and hepatologists in 2020 – a 5.8% rise on the previous year.
But with a current shortfall in the workforce, predicted retirements and population growth, numbers qualified needed to grow between 7 and 9% each year.
Half the advertised consultant gastroenterology and hepatology posts in the UK in 2020 were unfilled.
The report noted that gastroenterology was the major physician specialty at highest risk of burnout.