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Survey Results: The effect of COVID-19 on gastroenterology

Updated on: 03 Jun 2020   First published on 27 May 2020

The British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) has surveyed its members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim was to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on gastroenterology services, individual practices, training and to get feedback on how the BSG is helping members handle the pandemic.

Key findings

Impact on gastroenterology services

  • Gastroenterologists have been redeployed to other duties: 69% are doing general medicine, 66% are looking after COVID patients, 24% are resident on call, 25% are doing non-patient-facing duties
  • 97% are providing endoscopy for emergency or essential cases as per BSG guidance. There has been a reduction in the volume of endoscopy with 21% doing 2 week waits, 11% urgent cases and 5% routine cases
  • Only 47% have access to trained endoscopy nursing staff for emergency/essential endoscopies
  • 18% are not doing clinics. Of those still doing clinics, on average they were doing 57% of their normal number of clinics indicating a reduction in activity
  • The majority are doing telephone or video clinics although only 11% had access to video consultations. 13% are still doing face to face clinics.
  • 39% still have access to CT colons
  • 92% have had members of their specialist nursing teams re-deployed to other duties
  • 56% of referrals not being seen are being collated by the administration team to be seen post-COVID, implying that a significant proportion is at risk of being potentially missed or triaged using different criteria. Our BSG toolkit for the recovery of services emphasises the need for a robust system of collating these patients and then triaging by a senior decision-maker.
  • 73% are having discussions about re-starting services

Impact on training

  • With regards to training, 53% are unlikely to achieve their ARCP targets, subspecialty training in hepatology, inflammatory bowel disease and nutrition have all been adversely affected for more than 31%. 66% are not doing any clinics. 29% are unable to continue their research. 10% are unable to go out of programme for training.

Support for staff

  • 34% of at-risk individuals do not have access to a clean space
  • 60% feel supported or very well supported from a wellness point of view by their Trust
  • 89% found that the guidance from the BSG ranged from being useful to extremely useful

In summary, gastroenterology services and training in gastroenterology have been adversely affected by the COVID -19 pandemic.  There will be a large backlog of clinic and endoscopy cases once services are re-started. There is concern that a proportion of patients will have a delayed diagnosis of cancer and poor outcomes for benign disease. Support for staff in terms of access to video consultations, clean space, and wellness could be improved. Solutions regarding the significant loss of training opportunities in gastroenterology are required.

Tony Tham, Chair, BSG Clinical Services and Standards Committee
Andy Douds, Deputy Chair, BSG Clinical Services and Standards Committee
Beverly Oates, Chair, BSG Training Committee
Adrian Stanley, BSG Secretary


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