A laboratory costing system which recovers all costs against tests, rather than using both test and request charges, was developed. Methods of recovering costs of routine and emergency services, of capital investment in equipment, of instrument maintenance costs and of general hospital overheads were considered. The Welcan unit system of workload measurement was applied to a range of test procedures. Both the Welcan unit value and unit value adjusted fro calibration and quality control (Welcan based weighting) correlated only moderately with locally derived analytical time per test and correlated poorly with direct analytical cost per test. The correlation of direct analytical cost per test with total cost per test was much stronger than that of analytical time per test with direct analytical cost per test. The data suggest that neither Welcan unit values, Welcan based weightings, nor locally derived analytical time per test can truly reflect total resource consumption for the provision of a range of test procedures. This factor should be borne in mind when applying operational or performance indicators based on Welcan units.
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