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The specimen transportation system should ensure the timely arrival of specimens at laboratory reception, in optimal condition, in a manner that does not pose a threat to the health and safety of anyone coming into contact with them and is otherwise compliant with all necessary regulations.

All samples should be transported to the laboratory without undue delay. Each specimen must be sealed in a seperate specimen bag with the accompanying request form inside the relevant section of the specimen bag (Form: Where applicable if specimen is not electronically requested).

The request form should be not be removed or placed in the same pocket as the specimen.

It is the responsibility of the requesting doctor to ensure that the the specimen reaches the laboratory.

All specimens are a potential infection risk; therefore, all specimens  must be collected using Standard Precautions. Specimens should be transported in a rigid container in accordance with the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment (2005).

External Specimen Transport

Specimens must be properly sealed and individually bagged, then placed in a secondary bag containing absorbent material before carefully transferring to the transport container.

Specimens must always be carried in closed boxes, which are clearly marked with a Biological Substance Category B label. This outer package must display a diamond warning symbol containing the text: UN3373 in letters 6mm high.

Storage boxes will be provided for each surgery or clinic – for holding blood specimens and for non-blood specimens. On collection by the designated courier, specimens will be transferred by courier staff into separate transport boxes. Boxes should be lined with a clear plastic bag containing absorbent material, which is subsequently secured with a cable tie when full.

Green specimen transport bags are used for transporting specimens for Histology, Cytology and Virology to and from the Royal London Hospital.

Blood and tissue slides should be regarded as ‘sharps’ and placed in an appropriate plastic slide transport box before packaging.

Open specimens must never be carried unprotected in the open hand or given to other members of staff in this way.

Specimens must not be left unattended when not secured in the van. Patient confidentiality must be preserved at all times.

The provision of specimen containment within motor vehicles must be adequate so as to restrain, retain and otherwise protect the contents in the event of an accident or accidental spillage.

Decontamination materials shall be carried in each vehicle to enable small spillages to be contained. In the event of specimen spillage or loss of specimens, Pathology is to be informed immediately on 020 8510 7889 (Pathology) - ask to speak to a Microbiology Consultant.

The response by Pathology laboratory staff will depend upon the size and extent of the spillage and upon the resulting level of contamination. All decontamination shall be in accordance with the current Pathology Safety manual.

The delivery schedule for specimen transport will be optimised so as to avoid specimen deterioration and will be monitored by Reception staff on an informal basis with delays queried with the courier service as and when they occur. Incidents will subsequently be reviewed at Reception and Quality meetings.

If any delay or breakdown occurs with the courier vehicle Homerton Pathology (Specimen Reception) must be informed as soon as possible so that alternative arrangements can be made. Any failure to deliver items will be recorded as an incident by Pathology. In the event of a vehicle breakdown or a road traffic accident, do not allow persons other than courier staff or Trust staff to handle specimens. 

Last updated: 25 February 2016