Nurses are now as good as doctors when it comes to performing tricky endoscopies, according to a new study presented at a Birmingham conference yesterday.
Internal examinations of lower and upper digestive tract involve inserting a flexible plastic tube, with a tiny camera attached, via the patient's throat or rectum.
Delegates at the British Society of Gastroenterology's annual scientific meeting at the International Convention Centre, heard patients now prefer nurses to carry out this task.
More than 1,800 patients took part in the research, lead by Professor John Williams, of University of Wales in Swansea, which could see nurses' roles expanded as a result.
In the study, people with problems including anaemia, dyspepsia, weight loss and rectal bleeding were split into two groups.
A sample of 914 patients had doctors carrying out the procedure while nurses carried out endoscopies on 942 people.
Researchers from University of Wales Swansea, University of Wales Bangor and the York Trials Unit decided to look into how endoscopies are performed, as nurses were carrying out more gastrointestinal examinations.
Dr Dhamaraj Durai, a specialist registrar in gastroenterology based at the Swansea campus, said: "The research showed that nurses are as good as doctors with respect to patient outcome and safety and the patients are more satisfied when endoscopy is done by nurses.
"No diagnoses were missed in either group when records were examined at one year. Some hospitals say that using nurses does cut down their waiting lists. Using nurses for routine diagnostic procedures will relieve doctors to do more complex procedures."
This research reveals that more nurses should be trained to undertake diagnostic endoscopies of the gastrointestinal tract.
The BSG's conference concludes later today.