Patients support expansion of at-home testing, report finds


Patients report declining mental and physical health while waiting for test results, as well as desire for greater transparency on waiting times and testing options.

A new report from the Patients Association, the independent charity campaigning for improvements to health and social care for patients, finds that patients would be supportive of an expansion of at-home testing, if it means speeding up diagnostic pathways.

The Patient Experience of Diagnostics Report analyses the opinions and experiences of more than 1,000 NHS patients, 77 per cent of whom stated they would be happy to test themselves at home, if this was available.

The paper also illustrates patient frustration with long diagnostic waiting times, as well as with the opacity of testing and treatment options. 60 per cent of respondents said that they would consider paying privately for tests if they faced a long wait on the NHS, but 93 per cent said they would like to see an increase in investment into testing capacity over the coming years, with 91 per cent stating that this investment should be a priority for the NHS.

The report captures the real impact of long waiting times for diagnostic tests, with more than a third of respondents reporting declines in both their physical health (36 per cent) and their mental health (34 per cent) while awaiting tests.

It also highlights calls for greater transparency throughout the patient journey, as 73 per cent of respondents reported wanting a better understanding of why they are being sent for tests, and what the tests will involve, and 82 per cent said they want more discussion about the different types of tests they could be referred for. 88 per cent reported wanting more explanation of how their results may impact their treatment options.

Respondents also voiced their backing to improving access, with 78 per cent stating they would be happier to travel outside their local area for testing if it meant faster access. As well as the 77 per cent who would be happy testing themselves at home, 44 per cent said they would willingly test themselves in a clinical setting.

Based on the findings of the NHS patients who responded, the report makes the following recommendations to improve access to diagnostic testing in the NHS:

  • Expand community diagnostic hubs by removing NHS estate restrictions and expanding the number and types of tests offered. With demand rising by 7 per cent annually, the current 5 per cent capacity target for new hubs is described as inadequate.
  • Increase transparency on waiting times through better use of data held by the NHS.
  • Support appropriate expansion of at-home testing options where considered clinically safe and effective.
  • Improve communication with patients throughout the testing process. This includes explaining the reason for tests, available options, timelines for results, and what results mean.
  • Ensure political commitments to improve diagnostic access from all parties in upcoming election manifestos.
  • Review NHS Constitution pledges on waiting times based on patient experiences.