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.