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Warning over shortage of endoscopy nurses


A shortage of specialist nurses is compounding a capacity crisis in endoscopy, a leading nurse in the field has warned.

Endoscopy nurses and healthcare support workers are “often missed out” in discussions about how to improve endoscopy capacity in the NHS, according to Irene Dunkley, a nurse consultant in gastroenterology and endoscopy.

“Without a sufficient number of endoscopy nurses and other support staff it is a simple fact that it is very difficult to improve overall endoscopy capacity even with endoscopists available, said Ms Dunkley, who is chair of the British Society of Gastroenterology’s nurses section.

She said: “The NHS is faced with an endoscopy capacity crisis and this is compounded by a long-standing national nursing shortage.

“There are a number of examples that could make this crisis even more acute,” said Ms Dunkley, who was speaking ahead of the society’s annual meeting next week in Liverpool.

“There is a structural issue facing nursing numbers, particularly the amount of nurses aged over 55 –the nursing retirement age – and an insufficient pipeline of new nurses coming through,” she said.

“Further uncertainly stems from nursing student bursaries being put under review in England and [continuing professional development] money for education being cut,” she said. “Only tackling these issues head-on will we be able to provide capacity and improved patient care.

She added: “Specialist gastroenterology and hepatology nurses, like other specialities, have demonstrated their worth time and time again in co-ordinating patient care, preventing admissions, helping primary care physicians and with services to manage chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and viral hepatitis.”

The society said it planned to try and ensure its conference this year worked for nurses and allied health professionals in the same way it did for gastroenterologists and hepatologists.

As a result, it will feature keynote speeches from Peter Carter, former chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, and Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes, former chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.


Readers' comments (6)

  • If my personal experience was anything to go by its not numbers which are the problem it is quality.
    After waiting over 2hrs prepped ready to go I was taken to the room of excecution and laid out by 2 Nurses ,local applied and the process begins only to find the machine is not working, I am returned to the waiting room ans I wait and wait until a replacement machine is sourced , by this time the local was wearing off .All I can say is , what should have been reasonable experianced turned out to be a nightmare.
    The place was full of staff doing , not a lot, one would have thought an extreemly routine operation carried out on a regular basiswould have involved checking that the equipment was actually functioning

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  • Without offending any endoscopy nurses I will briefly describe my endoscopy placement experience as a student from a few years ago.

    I did endoscopy as a student in one of the largest trusts in the UK. We had many procedure rooms and carried out pretty much all endoscopy procedures. I do believe its one of the best area's for nurse/MDT relationships, as you work very closely together and rely on each other, so it does feel very family like.

    Now the bad bits. I found it extremely boring, and pretty much every other student who also did endoscopy also found it very boring. I was not allowed to be involved in any of the procedures, I could pretty much only observe and I started to lose enthusiasm and interest very quickly. Endoscopy nursing is very procedural. It's all about getting the equipment ready and assisting the doctors. There isn't a great deal of autonomy or management of your own patients and this exists in other area's of procedural nursing such as theatres and angiography (in my opinion). There is a need for quick turnover, which I do understand but this means you have to rush the patients, you have to rush recovery and you never really develop any kind familiarity with your patients. If you're the kind of nurse that likes talking to patients this is not for you, I remember having a chat with a patient while he was getting a colonoscopy just to take his mind of things and one of the nurses moved me away saying I was distracting the doctor??!

    Another issue was because it was 9-5 but sometimes you would finish early as you were done with your list or stay late as procedures went over time, you either owed time or were given time which really skews your weekly hours.

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  • Endoscopy is a specialist field of nursing (possibly why the student felt unable to fully experience its importance), unlike theatre nursing and emergency nursing, it's specialism is not recognised in the NHS. However it remains grounded and governed by individual bodies for example the British Society for Gastroenterology, GIN, JAG.
    If a department is lacking staff it is due to the importance of finding qualified specialist staff to fill in the gaps (for want of a better word), yes it is 'procedural' and 'a quick turn over' but it is a lifeline for those patients who have extensive gastro-intestinal troubles, diseases and cancers. The knowledge base of biology within the GI tract can take years to fully understand and appreciate. And much needed by the nurses in an emergency situation...which is a common occurrence due to the patients they treat.
    Endoscopy is one of the only departments that has nurse lead discharge, this should be praised!
    The actual issues for endoscopy nurses include trusts extending their hours, weekends and the introduction of on-call rotas which are poorly managed and barely fit in with the working time directorate. Limited rest times and lunch breaks due to too many patients per list. Late starts and late finishes. And the biggest issue for endoscopy nurses - out sourcing lists to private companies! Companies which the nurses then join to get triple the money for less responsibility.

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  • I am in-charge of the Endoscopy Unit in a private clinic and is regularly inspected by the CQC. The unit is run by a Consultant Gastroentrologist, a nurse and myself. I have been in post for the last 20 yrs. It is true that most of the specialist nuses are retiring and as a result, there is a shortage of endoscopy nurses. There is also shortage of courses for Endoscopy training for nurses which contritute to the crisis.

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  • Endoscopy is a specialist area. you have to be trained and competent to carried out the procedures with the doctors, and be prepare to work long and tedious hours, sometimes the list can over run, therefore you will automatically finish your shift late, and still have to come back to work for an early start from 730am to late 830pm which I think is ridiculous. Endoscopy Nurses should be paid more. Especially the on call, and emergency theater cases.

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  • I had a placement within an Endoscopy unit as a student nurse and I found the whole placement very rewarding and engaging.
    The mentors I had and staff I worked with were very knowledgable in their field and keen to teach me all about their role. I was not only allowed to observe procedures, but I also assisted and by the end of my placement I was taking biopsies, handing over in recovery and managing airways for patients having upper endoscopy treatment (under supervision). I felt that I was a part of the team.
    The biology that I had learnt and studied became real to me, not just on the page but right in front of me and numerous times we found something that needed treatment or following up.
    Endoscopy is a much needed, overlooked department and one where I will be considering specialising in.

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