Secret Shopper

We check the vitamin D test service every month using real people around the UK. This forms part of the quality assurance of the  service and we hope is also of educational benefit to our users.   January  2020 No. 2 Secret Shopper Audrey An 89 year old great grandmother who after a stroke a year ago has been a care-home resident in the South-West. She takes a daily Vitamin D supplement, and has done so for many years. She has hardly been outside for over a year. Comment: Audrey’s daily supplements are clearly working well for her. She has achieved a level not only of over 50 nmol/L but also over 75 nmol/L, which is a level that many suggest we should all be aspiring to. She did better than Jen, the junior doctor below and one of her six grandchildren! Turn round: Considering the laboratory has had Christmas and New Year, not to mention special working for social distancing, the turn-round of 4 working days is exceptionally good.

January 2020 No. 1

Secret Shopper Jen A 31 year old hospital doctor in London currently working extra shifts in the back of an ambulance helping transfer Covid-19 patients between ITUs. She is vegetarian and spends a lot of time outdoors. She does not take vitamin supplements.


Jen was surprised that she was deficient. She intends taking several 25 ug  (1,000 IU)  vitamin D3 tablets/day to get her level up. We have offered her a retest next month. Turn round: The service is hugely busy at present. Considering this sample arrived just two days before Christmas, a turn-round of 10 working days is pretty good. We have set up a second secret shopper in January to see how things are going.

December 2020

Secret Shopper Chris Chris was our second secret shopper from November. He sent his sample back the same time as his wife, whose results are below. Unfortunately his spots were not very good and the laboratory was not happy to analyse them and sent Chris a free of charge pack to try again. Second time round his spots were just as bad - there was not enough blood to go right through the filter paper. So…… the laboratory kindly sent Chris a third test pack, again free of charge. This time Chris went the extra mile and there was enough blood on the card to analyse! Comments: Chris has a reasonable level of Vitamin D at 56.1 nmol/L. However he does take two daily supplements containing Vitamin D and he was a bit surprised it was not higher. The laboratory does not analyse samples that might give misleading results, but rather sends out a fresh pack if there are concerns about the blood spot appearance. This can be for samples that are insufficient, and also where it looks like there has been ‘overspotting’, that is several drops of blood placed on top of each other. Turn round - the return of the sample by first class post from Chris was reasonable considering it was the week before Christmas. The laboratory turned the result round in less than 3 working days which is excellent considering how busy they are with their work tripling over the last year due to concerns about getting Vitamin D levels right during the pandemic. November 2020 Secret Shoppers Judith & Chris We have two secret shoppers this month. Judith and Christopher live together in Kent and are retired. They both take cod liver oil every day and also a multi-vitamin tablet. They put their samples in the post at the same time in separate pre-paid envelopes. Comments: Judith’s sample took over a week to arrive - the lab is experiencing  some postal delays at present. Once in the laboratory the sample was analysed in 4 working days and reported back by email the same day. Considering the laboratory staff are all coping with  the second lock- down and a huge growth in workload, this is extremely impressive. Judith has a good level of Vitamin D which would be expected from her long-term oral supplementation. Chris’s results have not come back yet which is not unusual. Chris and Judith’s samples may have been on separate runs, or the lab may have needed to reanalyse Chris’s sample as they wanted to check the result.

October 2020

Secret shopper Sue Su is a 28 year old female engineer who has worked mainly from home in Birmingham since lock-down. She takes a 25ug (1,000 IU) tablet of Vitamin D3 daily. Comments: Su has an adequate level but without her supplement she would almost certainly have been in the ‘insufficiency’ category. Turn-round is at the upper end of the laboratory  target, at 9 working days. The laboratory had some machine problems in mid-October requiring a service engineer for the LC-MS/MS equipment.

September 2020

Secret shopper Richard Richard is a 61 year old male, who works outdoors as a lawn care expert in Warwickshire, and has never taken vitamin D supplements. Comments: Laboratory: Turn round excellent at <2 working days in lab. Result: Richard’s level is in the ADEQUATE category. He was slightly underwhelmed, as he thought his Vitamin D would be higher with all his time outdoors over a sunny summer. He intends to take a supplement now through the winter. We might use him again in March and see how his level kept up without the sun.
BCPS-V. 2020/18/2 Last Updated: 8th January  2021 Review Date: 8th May  2021
The lab reports below state the date the sample was taken, received in the laboratory and tested. In blue we have added the date the emailed result got back to our Secret Shopper. Each report comes with a clear interpretation as shown here.