AIM: To survey the use made of laboratory services for urgent tests and clinicians' attitudes to near patient testing. METHODS: A questionnaire was sent to clinicians working in acute hospitals within Trent and North West Thames Regions. RESULTS: 197 replies were received. Most demand came from intensive care units. Overall, clinicians requested a median of six urgent tests a day. Blood glucose and dip stick urine testing were the most commonly performed bedside tests, but 41% of clinicians did not use ward testing. The most frequently cited indication for bedside testing was the need for speed. 85% of clinicians trusted results obtained in their central hospital laboratory, but there was an almost equal division between those who did (34%) and those who did not (38%) trust the results from near patient testing. A slightly larger proportion indicated they would accept responsibility (44%) for results obtained on the ward than would not (35%). Most staff indicated that better transport to the laboratory would remove the need for near patient testing. CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians have demonstrated an apparent need for rapid response testing but there is a strong preference for rapid transport systems and central laboratory analysis rather than bedside testing as a solution to this problem. There is a need to investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of near patient testing as a solution to rapid response testing.