It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result of the deferral of elective scheduled care activity in March, April and May of 2020, and since 2nd January 2021. This impact has been witnessed across all waiting list categories, including GI Scopes.
Endoscopy services were heavily affected during the first surge of COVID-19. In 2020 the scheduled care waiting list for GI Scopes grew by 46% (+10,295) to 32,539. In the last month, as a result of the further curtailment of scheduled care in January, G.I. Scope waiting lists increased by a further 11% to 36,065 by the end of January 2021.
The HSE continues to work to improve access, particularly to urgent colonoscopy services. The HSE’s National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead for Acute Operations has recommended that, where possible, endoscopy services be maintained in the current surge. This may involve relocation of the service to designated non-COVID sites to preserve throughput or to private providers, if available.
In addition, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) is working closely with individual hospitals to improve access to endoscopy/colonoscopy services for waiting list patients, including through the outsourcing of GI Scopes treatment to Private Hospitals where capacity is available.
In 2020 the NTPF arranged 7,399 scopes for patients. The NTPF continues to commission treatment for patients and plans to double the number of scopes it arranges in 2021.