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Private NHS providers must make their labs accessible online to NHS GPs

While sorting out a repeat prescription for one of my hypertensive patients today I realised (again) how badly organised the NHS really is.

My patient is overdue some bloods for renal function as he’s on various drugs that will affect his kidneys. What was annoying, though, is he’s been treated recently at a local private hospital who have been commissioned to provide NHS care and he had a hip replacement only eight weeks ago.

Now as part of his pre-op assessment I’m pretty sure he will have had urea & electrolytes (U&Es) done. But, guess what? The private hospital uses their own biochemistry lab and I can’t access them online like I can labs for the local NHS hospitals.

So, you guessed it, I will have to ask him to hobble to the NHS path lab at the local hospital to have his bloods done, tests he probably doesn’t even need. There will be a cost associated with this, both financially for my CCG (who will have paid for the same test twice) and pain-wise for him, poor chap, as he’s just had his hip replaced.

The cost of some U&Es is individually not huge – anything between £3 and £7 – but if this scenario were repeated all over the country I’m guessing the savings could be significant.

So, why as part of the commissioning process for tariff- based NHS procedures is this sort of issue not addressed? I suspect nobody has even thought about it.

The solution is simple: if you are providing an NHS service you should use the same lab that your local GPs use so that they can access results. Or, at the very least, make your labs results available online.

It won’t fix the NHS, but it’s simple knowledge that if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.

Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.