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Endoscopy services during COVID-19 second wave

Updated on: 16 Oct 2020   First published on 16 Oct 2020

Author:  Dr Ian Penman 

Endoscopy and other specialised services have begun to recover, but in most areas remain well below their pre-COVID capacity. Hospital admissions with COVID-19 have started to increase and a second surge appears to have already started.  There is real concern that the already fragile endoscopy services may become even more stretched, risking further delays to the diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious gastrointestinal and liver disorders.

Since the pandemic began, we have learned a lot about both the virus and its impact on Endoscopy, including how to deliver endoscopy safely and the importance of senior decision-maker triage to prioritise patients most likely to benefit from procedures urgently (and conversely the most likely to come to harm from lack of them).

Endoscopy capacity may be affected again by:

  • loss of endoscopy or recovery areas to become inpatient beds
  • redeployment of nursing and A&C staff to other duties
  • withdrawal of trainees from GI/Liver clinics, ward and scope lists to cover COVID wards

Whilst we must do what we can to assist the fight against COVID-19 as part of the wider effort, it is also essential that diagnostic and specialised services are protected for as long as possible. To this end, it is imperative that the entire endoscopy Team is preserved, so that services can continue and the timely care of patients with potentially serious gut disorders can be maintained. BSG President Dr Alastair McKinlay has already emphasised the importance of this in his President’s Bulletin of September 17th  and we have highlighted these issues to NHS England as well.

Please be aware of this in your planning during the difficult weeks that lie ahead and also refer to the three BSG Endoscopy guidance documents we have produced since March.  They will serve as a guide to decision-making about endoscopy services, and can be repeatedly adapted over time to meet rapidly changing local needs.

Endoscopy must be like a good stent: well-placed, always open, strong and flexible.

Best wishes

Ian Penman

BSG Vice President Endoscopy