Hundreds of islanders who were told months ago that they needed colonoscopy or gastroscopy examinations remain uncertain when they will be seen, despite Health & Social Care saying earlier this year that waiting lists would be more or less cleared by June.
However, HSC is hoping to make an announcement imminently about an off-island medical team which it hopes to bring to the island to work through the backlog of patients.
‘The States’ procurement process to secure an off-island contractor to deliver the planned gastroenterology waiting list initiative is ongoing,’ said HSC yesterday.
‘Detailed talks are still taking place with the preferred provider with the intention that the programme will commence before the end of May 2023.’
A Scrutiny public hearing on 1 March revealed that about 1,000 people were waiting for endoscopy procedures.
Hundreds had been waiting for more than six months.
But HSC said at the time it had a plan which by June would cut waiting lists to about 100 patients and waiting times to no more than eight weeks.
HSC president Al Brouard told the Scrutiny hearing that seven firms had tendered for the contract to clear the backlog and that the committee was ‘in the final recruitment and procurement stages’ before selecting the winning bid.
The procurement process was then hit by delays of several weeks.
If there are no further delays and the scheme to clear the backlog starts before the end of this month, waiting lists and times could be back to normal by late summer, based on the timeline HSC provided at the Scrutiny hearing.
The island’s bowel cancer screening programme has been hit by delays repeatedly since the height of the Covid pandemic and is currently suspended.
HSC said yesterday that resumption of the programme remained tied to the initiative to clear waiting lists.
‘The bowel cancer screening programme will follow on from the waiting list initiative,’ it said.
The Medical Specialist Group, which provides secondary healthcare under contract with the States, struggled to replace two permanent consultant gastroenterologists who left the island last year.
The MSG confirmed yesterday that one of them – Dr Hamish Duncan – recently returned to the island temporarily to help alleviate pressure on the service.
‘We’re continuing to make every effort to recruit a full-time gastroenterologist to replace the two part-time gastroenterologists who left last year.
‘Although this is a great opportunity for the right candidate, it has been exceptionally difficult to find that person due to the acute shortage of gastroenterologists in the UK.
‘In the meantime, we have been employing locum gastroenterologists to cover the service, and have occasionally employed two locums at the same time to help bring down waiting times.
‘Dr Hamish Duncan returned to work with us as a locum from 11 April until 6 May,’ said the MSG.