Thousands of people in Northern Ireland waiting more than six months for endoscopy tests
Thursday 26 November 2020
Thousands of people in Northern Ireland are waiting more than six months for tests that can help to diagnose bowel cancer, according to figures published today by the country's Department of Health.
More than 9,000 people who needed investigations for suspected bowel cancer symptoms had been waiting for more than nine weeks for endoscopy tests (colonoscopy or flexi-sigmoidoscopy) at the end of September 2020. These tests look at areas of the bowel and can help diagnose whether someone has the disease. The Department of Health in Northern Ireland says patients should wait no more than nine weeks for a colonoscopy or flexi-sigmoidoscopy.
More than six in ten patients (61%) have been waiting for a colonoscopy for over 26 weeks and around a third (67%) are waiting the same amount of time for a flexi-sigmoidoscopy. There has been little improvement since June when the last round of waiting time figures were published.
Endoscopy for all but emergency and essential procedures were initially paused due to the impact of coronavirus, leading to a growing backlog in patients waiting to be seen.
Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, says: "The coronavirus pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on the health service, especially those that work in diagnostic services, who see first-hand the impact of postponed diagnostic tests.
"Bowel cancer is Northern Ireland’s second biggest cancer killer, but it doesn't have to be if patients are diagnosed early and they are able to start treatment quickly.
"We urgently call on the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, to tackle this crisis."
- Read more about how we plan to tackle the endoscopy crisis in our End the Capacity Crisis campaign
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- Find out more about our work in Northern Ireland