A Cork-based consultant has called for investment in public hospital endoscopy units, longer working days and weekend lists to clear the backlog of colonoscopies which a “significant number of people” are waiting for.
According to the latest figures from the HSE, the number of people waiting for a routine colonoscopy has risen by 60% over the past 12 months.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland, Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon at Cork University Hospital (CUH) Dr Emmet Andrews described the situation as “very worrying for patients” and “worrying for the doctors caring for them”.
Dr Andrews said that although those with symptoms “that do not fulfill the criteria” are put on routine waiting lists, those with persistent symptoms such as change in bowel habit, bleeding or abdominal pain will be prioritised and seen within three to four weeks.
He said that one in 250 people on waiting lists are likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer and urged those experiencing persistent symptoms to go back to their GP and to advocate to be treated as an urgent case and to see a consultant.
“For every 10,000 patients on a routine waiting list, there’ll be about 40 of those who will have cancer,” he said.
He said that the Government should be looking for people on such waiting lists to be vaccinated early “so we can get them in more safely”.
Traditionally in Ireland we’ve been under-resourced in endoscopy that has improved in the last number of years, but we’re still under-resourced compared to other countries.
He said that during the first two lockdowns, nurses in endoscopy units were redeployed to other areas before a national derogation which has seen about 70% of colonoscopies being carried out compared to pre-lockdown.
Dr Andrews said that “significant long term investment” is needed for endoscopy units across the country and that extending the working day and weekend lists should be looked into in the shorter term to allow for more colonoscopies in order to “clear the backlog”.