A leading doctor has warned that trusts will struggle to get back to anything like pre-covid levels of endoscopy services and will need to prioritise which patients are diagnosed.
Endoscopy procedures are part of the diagnostic and treatment pathway for many conditions, including bowel cancer and stomach ulcers. Most hospitals have not done any non-emergency procedures since the middle of March because they are aerosol generating — meaning a greater covid infection risk and need for major protective equipment.
Although some areas are now starting to do more urgent and routine work, capacity is severely limited.
Kevin Monahan, a consultant gastroenterologist at St Marks’s Hospital, part of London North West Healthcare Trust, and a member of the medical advisory board for Bowel Cancer UK, said the time taken for droplets to settle in rooms after a procedure can be up to an hour and three quarters, depending on how areas are ventilated. Only then can the room be cleaned and another patient seen.
Dr Monahan said his trust had restarted some endoscopy work and was currently doing around 17 per cent of its pre-covid activity. “We can provide a maximum of about 20 per cent of normal activity — and that is using private facilities for NHS patients,” he said. “I am not at all confident we will be able to double what we are doing now, even in three to four months’ time."
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Source: HSJ, 12 June 2020