Case Study: IBD Surgical Link Nurse, St Mark's Hospital

Case Study: IBD Surgical Link Nurse, St Mark's Hospital

IBD Clinical Nurse Specialist, Michael Cervantes, led an innovative project at St. Mark’s Hospital to proactively address delays to IBD elective surgery and improve patient experience by introducing an IBD Surgical Link Nurse role.

Statement 5.1

Patients should have access to coordinated surgical and medical clinical expertise, including regular combined or parallel clinics with a specialist colorectal surgeon (paediatric colorectal surgeon where appropriate) and IBD gastroenterologist.

Statement 5.5

Prior to elective surgery, a full assessment and optimisation of medical treatment and physical condition should be undertaken to minimise risk of complications and aid post-operative recovery.

What was the opportunity?

To improve communication and surgical pathways for IBD patients awaiting surgery, by offering them a single point of access to their IBD team in a large tertiary referral centre in England, serving around 10,000 IBD patients.

What wasn't working?

IBD patients were experiencing delays to elective surgery, in breach of the IBD UK standard: to perform elective surgery for IBD as soon as clinical status has been optimised and within 18 weeks of referral.

What did the St. Mark's team do?

Stakeholders including consultant colorectal surgeons, resident surgical officers, and IBD Dietitian were all involved in meetings led by an IBD CNS to scope the problem and the potential ways to improve the situation. A new role was created for a dedicated IBD Surgical Link Nurse, to work with the colorectal surgical team.

What did the team want to achieve?

To proactively identify IBD patients at risk of deterioration while on waiting lists and ensure that IBD patients referred for surgery were prioritised according to clinical need, recognising potential delays to surgery early on and addressing them accordingly.

How did they do it?

A bi-weekly meeting was put in place to identify patients at risk of deterioration. To help stratify patients, the team used the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) of England, RCS in Ireland, the RCS of Edinburgh, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow’s clinical guide to surgical prioritisation during the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020):

• Priority Level 2: operation <1 month
• Priority Level 3: operation <3 months
• Priority Level 4: operation >3 months


The introduction of the IBD Surgical Link Nurse role has already resulted in positive changes to the delivery of IBD surgery and management at St. Mark’s, and has improved the experience of patients waiting for elective IBD surgery.

The team intend to use their preliminary outcomes to lobby for the formalisation of a full-time substantive IBD Surgical Nurse role within the service, with the aim of developing the role to be more involved with pre and post operative pathways, including counselling, Enhanced Recovery After Surgery, and a nurse-led post-operative clinic for patients who have had ileo-colonic resection.

In October 2021, Crohn’s & Colitis UK surveyed more than 7,000 of their members and found that 29% of respondents had their surgery cancelled during the previous 12 months. In light of these findings, the introduction of the IBD Surgical Link Nurse role is timely and the St. Mark’s team have a vision to improve and develop it, maintaining an up-to-date register in future of IBD patients needing surgery at the point of referral in order to monitor their clinical status, as well as to proactively recognise potential delays to surgery and address them.

This project was a Richard Driscoll Award Finalist in 2022 with Tillotts Logic IBD STARS Support, Training And Recognising Success.