New project to examine blood tests in primary care
1 December 2021
A new NIHR ARC West project will investigate why blood tests are requested in primary care and how the results are managed. The project, Why Test?, is a collaboration with the Primary Care Academic Collaborative (PACT) and the Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) at the University of Bristol.
Over the last 20 years, the number of blood tests done in GP surgeries has been going up. GPs do blood tests for several reasons, including monitoring long term conditions, or trying to make a diagnosis.
Some blood tests have evidence to justify doing them, while others are recommended in guidelines. But research evidence suggests a quarter of blood tests done by GPs may not be necessary. Unnecessary tests could lead to further blood tests, GP appointments, imaging or referrals. This is likely to increase patients’ anxiety, GPs’ workloads and NHS costs.
To better understand the impact of blood tests, research is needed to know why GPs did them and how they used the results. There isn’t a way to routinely collect this information.
They Why Test? projects aims to collect this data with the help of PACT, a UK research network of community healthcare workers, including medical students, junior doctors, GPs, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
Initially the research team will ask PACT members in 10 practices to each look at 50 of their blood tests, as a pilot. They will then ask members from 50 practices to record 50 blood tests from each practice, allowing them to analyse around 2,500 blood tests in total.
Dr Jess Watson, GP and NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer at ARC West and CAPC, is leading the Why Test? project. She said:
“The number of blood tests in primary care has been going up for a long time. But what’s not clear is why tests are requested and how the results are used. This new project will help us work out how to improve the use of blood tests in the community to help both doctors and patients.”
Why Test? is funded by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group.
Find out more about the Why Test? study in this video.