New study finds endoscopy backlog reaches half a million in England
Friday 19 March 2021
A backlog of nearly half a million endoscopy procedures, essential for diagnosing bowel and oesophageal cancers, has built up during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study has found.
The research, carried out by UCL researchers and published in the Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, shows the number of endoscopies being performed in April 2020, the month following the first lockdown, fell by over 90%.
By January 2021, researchers estimated the backlog was 476,000, and this figure could potentially rise to more than 870,000, should there be a further full or partial lockdown and or a slow return to normality.
To estimate the potential backlog, they compared the number of endoscopies performed by month, from January 1, 2018, through to Oct 31, 2020, from 125 NHS trusts in England.
Clinicians are now calling on the UK Government and NHS to implement a concerted mitigation plan, in order to prioritise patients in urgent need of an endoscopy and help reduce the health impact and consequences.
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: "This study paints an incredibly concerning picture of a growing backlog of endoscopies due to the pandemic. This could see services being further overwhelmed, and increased anxiety for patients waiting for tests to diagnose or rule out bowel cancer.
"Delays can lead to poorer outcomes for bowel cancer patients and potentially cost lives. The Government must do whatever it takes to give the NHS urgent investment to increase capacity in its endoscopy workforce, equipment and facilities to bring waiting times under control.
- Read more about how we plan to tackle the endoscopy crisis in our End the Capacity Crisis campaign
- Read about a new trial aimed at reducing the backlog of patients waiting for an endoscopy test in England
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