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Gastrointestinal services attacked

There is a “serious under provision” for patients suffering from gastrointestinal (GI) problems outside of normal working hours, a new study claims.

A review of 160 NHS acute hospitals across England found 64% of gastroenteroligists feel their out-of-hours services are unsatisfactory, with more than half claiming they have no formal cover for emergencies that do not happen within standard office hours.

Some 44% said they are not paid for out-of-hours work, and more than half said these services had not been mentioned in their contracts.

The review, published by the Royal College of Physicians, said that one of the biggest problems patients encounter is a lack of available medical staff to undertake emergency endoscopies.

These procedures can reduce blood transfusion requirements, surgery rates and improve mortality, it added.

The report concluded that if gastroenteroligists look to manage acute services better by formalising rotas and linking up with other centres receiving emergency admissions in the area, NHS hospitals could improve their out-of-hours provision.

“Providing a safe, out-of-hours GI service should not be viewed as an aspiration”, it said.

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