Guernsey Press

Gastroenterology waiting list up seven-fold in a quarter

THERE has been a seven-fold increase in the number of patients waiting longer than eight weeks for a specialist gastroenterology appointment.

(Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32146024)

In mid-February, 23 had had that wait, but by the middle of this month that figure had climbed to 162.

In the same three-month period, the number of patients waiting longer than six months for an appointment had gone from just one to 102.

Patients are meant to be seen within eight weeks under the States’ contract with the Medical Specialist Group.

‘It’s down to two things – the MSG is struggling to recruit a permanent gastroenterologist and I suspect there are capacity issues in our operating theatres,’ said Health Equality for All chairman Mike Read.

‘It’s a combination of those factors, but it’s still unacceptable and obviously it needs to be resolved.’

The number of patients waiting longer than eight weeks to be admitted for a gastrenterology procedure have remained relatively stable over the past three months.

Health & Social Care said yesterday that its staff and the MSG had been working hard to limit the total number of patients on waiting lists for endoscopy procedures to about 1,000 – a figure first revealed at a Scrutiny public hearing on 28 February.

At that time, HSC said it was close to launching a special scheme to clear waiting lists for endoscopy procedures by June.

The Guernsey Press reported last week that the scheme was weeks behind schedule, although HSC hopes to announce imminently the appointment of an off-island team to start clearing the backlog before the end of the month.

Mr Read said it would be good to see a special scheme to deal with current waiting lists, but warned the problem would continue to arise without permanent changes to the way services are provided.

‘It may sort out the backlog but it won’t do much in the long term.

‘It doesn’t matter where you look, whichever specialists and industries, finding qualified staff is an issue. We also need the hospital modernisation for more theatres,’ he said.

If there are no further delays and the scheme to clear the endoscopy 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 currently is suspended.

HSC has said it will resume screening once the scheme to clear waiting lists was in place.