Safety issues

A sample which is inadequately or inappropriately packaged can present a significant hazard to all those who subsequently have to deal with it. This includes ward staff, porters, drivers and laboratory staff. The following steps will help to minimize the risk from these hazards:

  • Ensure that the outside of the sample container is not contaminated
  • Check that the cap, lid or bung is properly secured
  • Make sure that the plastic bag is properly sealed
  • If there is clear evidence of leakage, do not send a sample through the air tube system
  • Do not transport samples with needles attached - remove the needle from blood gas samples, vitreous tap samples etc. before dispatch

Sample storage

Most laboratory samples will deteriorate on storage. Transmission of samples to the laboratory should therefore be as quick as circumstances permit. If immediate transport is not available then the storage conditions described for each sample in the tests and samples database should apply.

Blood sample storage information for tests performed by the Haematology Department (including Immunology and Blood Transfusion) is available below. If the test of interest is not covered by this list then please contact the laboratory.

Sample Storage: Haematology, Immunology and Blood Transfusion

Specimen bags

With the exception of very large specimen containers such as the bigger Histopathology pots, 24 hour urine containers and faecal fat collection buckets, all specimens sent to the laboratory should be in a sealed bag.

The standard laboratory request forms for Transfusion, Chemical Pathology, Haematology and Microbiology come with the specimen bag already attached to the form. Histopathology and Non-Gynae Cytology request forms do not have a bag attached.

For ICE request forms and bagless laboratory request forms, minigrip bags are available from Pathology supplies. These bags have a seal-able section for the specimen container and a second "pouch" for the laboratory request form. The form must not be placed in the seal-able section with the specimen as any leakage will contaminate the form. Please ensure that the request form is folded and placed in the pouch so that the specimen and test request details are clearly visible through the sample bag.

Please do not seal bags with sellotape or staples.

Air tube system

Air-tube systems are available in the Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospitals for rapid transport of samples to the laboratories.

Do not use the air-tube system for Histopathology samples.

Do not use the air-tube system for CSF samples.

Do not use the air-tube system for specimens containing more than 50mL of fluid as these are at risk of leakage from the buffeting samples receive in the system. However, it is safe to send blood culture bottles through the system.

When using the air-tube system make sure you use the correct pod for Pathology samples.

Please enter the correct location number for Pathology and check that the sample is accepted into the system. Occasionally, there is a problem with the system and a pod may not be accepted for several hours, during which time the sample may deteriorate and results may be significantly delayed.

  • Do not send obviously leaking samples through the system - containers should be re-sealed, cleaned up and re-bagged.
  • Do not place specimens in an air-tube without first putting them in a pod
  • Do not overfill the pod with too many samples
  • Do not use pharmacy pods (green) for Pathology samples

Portering service

The portering service should be used for samples that cannot be sent via the air tube system.

All Histopathology samples must be sent via the porters.

All CSF samples must be sent via the porters.

Pathology van service

The department provides a sample collection service for our users. The vans operate Monday to Friday. There is no service at weekends or on bank holidays.

Samples must be packaged as described in the Pathology policy document "Packaging of Pathological specimens for transport by road to, or between, hospital sites".

Please sort samples by laboratory department and place in the appropriate bag:

  • Red: Transfusion and Ante Natal samples
  • Green: Haematology/Chemical Pathology combined samples
  • Blue: Microbiology
  • Black: Histology
  • Yellow: Cytology

See below for full itinerary and timetable information. Current as of August 2015.