A strategy document recommending that specialist endoscopy nurses take over much of the diagnostic testing currently being carried out by doctors is being prepared by the British Society of Gastroenterology.
It could mean a doubling of the number of endoscopy nurses to provide routine investigations and cancer screening as new programmes are introduced.
Dr Hellier, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology believes that expansion of the role of nurses into an area that has been traditionally the domain of doctors has strong support from gastroenterologists.
The expansion in numbers of nurse endoscopists would relieve doctors to conduct more complex procedures.
The British Society of Gastroenterology took the view 9 years ago when nurses first entered the field that, providing nurses underwent the same training as medical endoscopists and achieved the same standards, there was no reason why they should not endoscope.
Dr Hellier, who chaired the first meeting on the issue, supports this in principle, but at that stage rather as a diagnostic and not as a therapeutic procedure and only for oesophagogastroduodenoscopy to examine the upper digestive tract.
Dr Hellier reported that at the time, he came under some criticism over trying to take nurses away from the nursing profession.
|Nurses are now performing gastroscopies, colonoscopies, therapeutic procedures and training other endoscopists|
|British Society of Gastroenterology|
But the British Society of Gastroenterology supported it and it has been hugely successful with the medical gastroentologists fully behind the nurses and no resistance.
Now, nurses are not just performing gastroscopies but also colonoscopies, therapeutic procedures, such as polypectomies, and stricture dilatations, and training other endoscopists.
The British Society of Gastroenterology are currently writing a strategy document in which recommendations are made that a lot of the routine diagnostic endoscopy should be done by nurses.
Doctors should then be able to concentrate on more complex and difficult endoscopy.
Dr Hellier concludes that, “In principle, we are very much in favour of this and we would look to nurses to provide a major part of the service, particularly in the area of cancer screening.”
“There is no doubt going to be a huge demand for endoscopies as screening programmes take off and I see the workload starting to increase very much next year.”
“We need to have a body of endoscopists to provide continuity.”