Background: Future colorectal cancer (CRC) screening
programmes should not (greatly) interfere with regular
health care. Hence, we analysed the Dutch endoscopic practice to provide a clear insight into endoscopic workload and manpower with a special emphasis on the current ability to facilitate a successful implementation of a faecal occult blood test (FOBT)-based nationwide CRC screening programme.
Methods: A questionnaire was sent to all Dutch endoscopy units (n=100) in the spring of 2005. The questionnaire included topics ranging from the numbers and specifications of endoscopies performed in 2004 and the numbers of endoscopists per unit to expected vacancies for gastroenterologists and waiting times.
Results: The response rate was 98%, representing a total of 49,253 hospital beds. overall, a 26% increase in the number of endoscopies from 325,000 in 1999 to almost 410,000 in 2004 was found, accompanied by a 25% increase in manpower. The total number of endoscopists was 598. regional differences were observed in the number of endoscopists, the total number of endoscopies and colonoscopies, and the number of endoscopies per endoscopist. A biannual FOBT-based screening programme would yield an additional workload of 25,385 colonoscopies a year amounting to a 22% increase in the total number of colonoscopies performed. However, the
workload per unit would only have to increase by five extra colonoscopies a week.
Conclusion: Whereas an FOBT-based CRC screening
programme is currently feasible without strongly interfering with regular health care, future plans regarding the scale and preferred mode of screening should incorporate solid data on the (regional) endoscopic capacity and manpower needed for
a successful implementation.