THE ASSOCIATION OF GI PHYSIOLOGISTS [AGIP] – Addressing Current Workforce Shortages

AGIP is an Associate group of the British Society of Gastroenterology. AGIP members, work closely with gastroenterologists and upper and lower GI surgeons and provide a physiological assessment service in Gastroenterology. AGIP Accredited Independent Healthcare Practitioners in GI Physiology are experienced in planning and performing a wide range of diagnostic investigations to assess the function of the entire GI tract. Gastrointestinal [GI] Physiologists will also be involved with the training of other health care professionals, involved in research and development and the provision of education in this specialist field.

AGIP Accredited Independent Healthcare Practitioners in GI Physiology have historically been Clinical GI Physiologists.  Recently new trainees have gone through the Scientist Training Programme [STP] for GI Physiology & Urodynamic Science [Modernising Scientific Careers]. The STP is a 3 year academic [Newcastle University] and workplace-based programme culminating in the award of MSc in Clinical Science and statutory regulation as a Clinical Scientist. The aim of the STP is to attract, select and retain the very best people to Clinical Scientist posts. However, there are not enough trained STP’s in GI Physiology to fill vacant posts throughout the UK.

AGIP recognises that there is a national shortage of qualified individuals in GI Physiology. Many units have employed Nurses and other Healthcare Practitioners to plug a gap in the qualified workforce, but these individuals are not suitably trained and do not always follow professional body advice to obtain the appropriate training. AGIP continues to be involved with the National School of Healthcare Science [NSHCS], to manage the national recruitment for the postgraduate entry to the STP for GI Physiologists. This until recently was the only recognised route for those wishing to enter the profession.

However, in the last year AGIP has worked closely with the NSHCS and Newcastle University to establish an approved ‘Accredited Specialist Scientific Practice’ [ASSP] course similar to what Neurophysiology established with the NSHCS and Aston University back in 2014 when they launched the first NHS ASSP course. GI Physiology now has two new ASSP’s one in Upper and one in Lower GI Physiology.

This means that individuals with a suitable science degree, working in a recognised GI Physiology unit are able to choose from the existing Upper and Lower GI Physiology ASSP’s, or propose their own if they require a different mix of skills. For example, a department with a heavy research focus may wish to propose an ASSP which includes the STP module Research Methods. For each module, there will be assignments set by the University, work place assessments to be completed in an e-portfolio, and Observed Structured Final Assessments [OSFA] appropriate to the ASSP in line with the STP.

Ultimately, having a formal training pathway for non STP’s will improve patient safety and allow the expansion of suitably qualified individuals in GI Physiology.  The first cohort started in September 2017 and it is hoped that having the option of the ASSP in addition to the STP will enable the future of GI Physiology to flourish with appropriately trained individuals…watch this space!

I would like to thank all members of the AGIP council www.bsg.org.uk/bsg-sections/association-of-gi-physiologists.html  and specifically our colleague Elisa Skinner whom worked tirelessly on AGIP’s behalf to cement the ASSP’s into the training pathway for future GI Physiologists / Clinical [GI] Scientists.

Warren Jackson [FAGIP]

Chair of AGIP