The service, run by Prime Endoscopy Bristol and hosted by Westbury-on-Trym Primary Care Centre in Bristol, will now open its community gastroenterology unit on five days a week.
The unit has offered GPs direct access to non-urgent flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy since 2010 when it began by offering sessions on two days per week. The service is a collaboration with Prime Diagnostics, a private company that provides community-based direct-access diagnostics across England.
Since January 2012, the unit has performed 285 colonoscopies and 616 flexible sigmoidoscopies, detecting 12 new cases of colorectal cancer.
Dr Cohen outside his practice
GP Dr Mike Cohen, a partner in the practice, said establishing the service took ‘a lot of bottle and hard work’, and that locating the service in primary care gives GPs confidence when referring.
‘It is a service for GPs and their patients, run by GPs,’ he said. ‘All patients are discharged with a management plan. This is the added value of our service and it is provided below the secondary care tariff.’
Dr Cohen hopes the service can meet some of the rising demand expected when flexible sigmoidoscopy is added to the national bowel cancer screening programme in 2013/14.
But local demand for endoscopy services still far outstrips supply despite his service’s expansion, and by 2013/14 his service may be at full capacity he said.
Dr Cohen said increasing national diagnostic capacity further would be a ‘real challenge’ for the NHS.