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Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Gastroenterology examines issues related to the digestive system (5). This includes the organs of the digestive tract from the point of entry to the point of exit. Within the Gastroenterology team there are several specialty teams focusing on conditions which affect different parts of the digestive tract, including the oesophagus, stomach, small and large bowel and rectum. The IBD team focus upon the management and treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, including Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis. The Hepatology team focus more specifically upon the liver, pancreas and related organs such as the gallbladder and bile duct. The Upper GI (Gastrointestinal Team) specialise in disorders affecting the oesophagus and stomach, and the first part of the small bowel, predominantly. The Gastroenterology team as a whole work closely with clinical researchers at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital engaging in a range of research studies aimed at exploring the causes and effects of these disorders, as well as examining existing treatments and trialling new therapies.

Research into the closely allied fields of Gastroenterology and Hepatology began in the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in 2009, and is now led by Dr Simon McLaughlin. Our staff currently oversee the research of almost 20 trials and have a large patient cohort to draw on: last year more than 8,000 patients benefitted from the services of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Gastroenterology research receives support from a range of trained personnel, including consultants, associative specialists, research nurses, inflammatory bowel disease nurses and bowel cancer screening nurses. Hepatology research can draw on similarly specialist personnel, including consultants, senior nurse specialist, research nurses and specialist liver nurses. Both areas of research receive support from project coordinator and data management staff.

There are currently three key areas of research:

  • inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
  • gastro-Intestinal cancer prevention studies (bowel/oesophageal)
  • liver disease (hepatitis C and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)

Research nurse Emma Gunter writes about the TOPAZ-1 Study and her experiences of working at the hospital:

“The TOPAZ-1 Study is a very exciting clinical trial which gave patients with chronic hepatitis C the opportunity to access treatment that was more likely to clear the virus than previous treatments, with a lower burden of side-effects. This patient group had been waiting for several years for new medications to be licenced, and although the study drugs were just reaching that point, they had yet to be approved for purchase by NHS England. When this did happen, priority was - as anticipated - given to those with more advanced disease, leaving the majority dependent upon opportunities such as this study.”

“This was my first experience working on a commercial drug study, and it has been complex, interesting and demanding. I was mindful of the responsibility to conduct this in a proficient and timely manner, both for our patients' sake, and to ensure quality data for the study. Fortunately I have had the support of a communicative, enthusiastic clinical team who have great engagement with their patients.”

“The study is now in the Post-Treatment phase, and we continue to see the patients who participated to review and monitor them regularly. Studies such as this one were key in demonstrating the safety and efficacy of such medicines, ultimately increasing patient choice and improving access to effective treatment. In addition, we have been selected for additional studies of a similar nature, which is very satisfying.”

UK-AIH - a focus on Hepatology research

One of the trials the Gastroenterology Department is involved in is the United Kingdom Autoimmune Hepatitis Cohort (UK-AIH). Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare condition in which the body’s immune (defence) system attacks the liver. People who develop autoimmune hepatitis need medication to reduce the activity of the immune system and may need lifelong treatment. However, not everybody responds well to the current treatments and some people suffer from side effects. This trial is designed to collect more information about the condition to help improve treatments and enhance patient care.

(5) CORE (2015) What is Gastroenterology? Available at:

List of gastroenterology and hepatology publications

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