Why Test? The power of collaboration in primary care research


By Dr Ola Abdellatif, Primary Care Academic Collaborative (PACT) and Dr Jessica Watson, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol

Rates of blood testing in general practice have increased over the past two decades in the UK. The reasons why are not entirely clear. Researchers from the University of Bristol, led by Dr Jessica Watson, joined forces with PACT – a collaborative of GP clinicians interested in research – to investigate who requests tests and why, and what the outcomes are. Why Test? Is their first study, which benefited from the unique access to clinical records facilitated by PACT. In this blog, Dr Ola Abdellatif, a GP trainee at the time of the study (now a salaried GP) and PACT member, together with Dr Jessica Watson, a GP and NIHR Clinical Lecturer in General Practice at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol and current PACT Chair, reflect on their experiences and the benefits of collaboration.

GP trainee view

Why? Who did it? What should I do next? These questions went through my mind as a GP trainee every time I reviewed blood test results that came to my inbox. Until one day, as I was checking my emails, I came across ‘the study’. It was a project that wanted to look at exactly what I was wondering about: why were these tests requested, who requested them, and what was being done with the results?

I couldn’t wait to be involved in the Why Test? study and without thinking twice I applied to be part of this unique piece of work.

It was very interesting taking part and it was an eye opener to how we can do things better in primary care when it comes to requesting tests and actioning them. I really enjoyed looking at 50 different patient results from my own practice and analysing my practice’s patient cohort data, appreciating the good clinical practices and finding ways where we could do better when it comes to requesting or actioning test results.

My favourite part was recording the Why Test? video animation, and fulfilling my ‘inner influencer’!

Study lead view

Ola’s experience shows the benefit of getting involved in primary care research as a GP trainee, yet currently relatively few clinicians working in primary care have this opportunity.

The Primary Care Academic CollaboraTive (PACT) aims to improve primary care research for all, by bringing together enthusiastic GPs, trainees and allied health professionals to collect data from their practice for research and quality improvement.

All PACT members who participated in Why Test? received a practice report, showing data on how they requested, actioned and communicated blood test results, benchmarked against other participating practices. For PACT members this offered an opportunity to ‘dip a toe’ into the world of research, be named as authors on a peer-reviewed publication, and improve patient care in their practice by using benchmarked data for quality improvement.

Why Test? was the first Primary Care Academic CollaboraTive (PACT) study, but won’t be the last! Our second study, CHiP (Care of Housebound patients in Primary care), has nearly finished data collection and our next study in 2024 will look at the hugely topical area of Primary Care workload.

We welcome all clinicians working in primary care to get involved – no previous experience is needed. To join PACT and get involved sign up via our website here.

Finding out more

For more about the Why Test? study see our study website and animation.

Findings from the study were published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), presented at the Society for Academc Primary Care (SAPC) 2023 conference and featured in Pulse.

The BJGP has also published a podcast about the study, which you can listen to on BJGP Life.


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