Self-testing kits need regulation, college warns

The public is increasingly turning to self-testing kits – but without regulation this could increase pressure on general practice, according to the Royal College of GPs.

The college has now made a plea to regulators to ensure that kits have quality marks and are independently validated.

The public can now buy self-testing kits for cholesterol and blood sugar and even for risk of cancer.

The RCGP says there is an established precedent for self-testing in pregnancy tests. The public also became familiar with self-testing during the pandemic.

It says that all tests should be sold with independent guidance on the benefits and harms and potential for inaccuracy. Buyers should also know whether kits have approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The college also calls for manufacturers to be responsible for aftercare rather than GPs. This would mean them setting up call centres to help interpret, explain and discuss tests results.

College chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said: “We are seeing patients in our surgeries, who are distressed because of misleading or inaccurate results from self-testing, which they could have been spared if unevidenced tests were properly regulated.

“GPs and our teams are expertly trained to deliver high-quality, complex care for patients, taking into account an individuals’ circumstances. We actively encourage patients to take an interest in their health – but if they need a test for something, we’ll tell them.

“Taking a test can provide peace of mind for a patient. But it can also cause worry, if they’re not sure about how to interpret the result – or if they get a positive result that they weren’t necessarily expecting. For some conditions, this could be really distressing, and people may not have the appropriate support in place.

“We are providing 6% more appointments than before the pandemic, but with 852 fewer full-time GPs – general practice is already stretched to the limit. It isn’t a good use of our time to be explaining the results of unnecessary tests with patients.”

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