What is Gastroenterology?

Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine that looks at diseases of the oesophagus (gullet), stomach, small and large intestines (bowel), liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

The oesophagus is the tube that joins your mouth with your stomach. It is a muscular tube that contracts to push the food through when you swallow.

The stomach is where food is broken down by acid and emptied into your intestines. The stomach has special cells lining its wall to protect it from these acids.

The intestines consist of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum and ileum – different sections of small intestine) and the large intestine (colon and rectum). As food passes through the small intestine, nutrients are broken down and absorbed. When it passes into the colon, water is absorbed. The waste that is left is passed as faeces (poo).

The liver is roughly the size of a football and is on your right side just under your ribs. It stores vitamins, sugar and iron which are used by cells in the body for energy. It also clears the body of waste products and drugs, produces substances that are used to help blood clot and aid the immune system, and produces bile which aids in digestion.

The pancreas is an elongated organ that lies in the back of the mid-abdomen. It is responsible for producing digestive juices and certain hormones including insulin, the main hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar.

A gastroenterologist is a doctor specialising in the field of medicine which involves these closely related organs.


Referral Expectations

Your GP will refer you to our department if they are concerned that you have problems that require a specialist gastroenterology consultation regarding the diagnosis or treatment of the condition. You may also be referred directly to the Gastroenterology Department for a specific procedure without a prior clinic appointment.

Waiting times for clinics range from 2-18 weeks depending on the urgency, which is assessed from the letter we receive from your GP.

The letter you receive from the hospital will give full details of the time and place of your appointment.

Clinic appointments last 30 minutes. A history of your symptoms will be taken as well as a review of any medications you are on (please bring these with you). You will then be examined which may involve, depending on your complaints, a rectal examination. This involves the insertion of the doctor's finger or a tube into your bottom to examine the inside (sigmoidoscopy).
Depending on your problem you may be referred for an endoscopy examination such as a gastroscopy, colonoscopy or Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography (ERCP).

If this is the case you will receive full written instructions from the Endoscopy Department at Weston General Hospital prior to your appointment. Please read these carefully and contact us if you have any difficulties with the instructions. The waiting time for an endoscopy test is 2 to 6 weeks depending on the urgency.

For more information about the Endoscopy unit and common procedures, please see the Endoscopy page.

Following a clinic appointment you may be referred on for a Radiology test such as Barium x-rays, ultrasound scan, CT scan or MRI. You will receive an appointment for these tests from the X-ray Department at Weston General Hospital. These tests usually occur after a wait of two weeks.


Consultant Gastroenterologists

  • Dr David Parker
  • Dr Andrew Bell


Contact details

Tel: 01934 647014