AIMS: To assess the efficacy of a bacteriology service in respect of the time interval between collection of specimen and receipt of final report using the number and type of incoming telephone enquiries as a proxy measure. METHODS: For three months, all incoming telephone enquiries regarding the results of bacteriology specimens were monitored. Specimen type, date of sampling, the sender's location and the reason for making the telephone enquiry were recorded. RESULTS: The number of telephone enquiries made during the study was 1170, about 5% of the total number of samples received. Most enquiries related to results of urine cultures. These accounted for 33.9% of the calls, but only 5% of the total number of urines cultured. Enquiries relating to blood cultures were the next largest group accounting for 14.9% of calls, but 11% of the blood cultures received resulted in a telephone enquiry. The most frequent reason for making the telephone call was that the sender had not received the final report. CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians may have unrealistic expectations of the time taken to examine a specimen. A requirement for reporting sterile blood cultures after a shorter incubation period was found, and the value to patient management of earlier reporting of negative urine samples was identified.
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