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Requests and labelling

South West London Pathology (SWLP) has a sample request and labelling policy which describes how requests for pathology investigations should be made and accompanying samples labelled.

These robust arrangements are to ensure that any requests or specimens sent to any of our laboratories are correct and accurately labelled.

Accurate identification of the patient will ensure that the request will be processed quickly, sample analysed in a timely manner and an accurate and informative report issued.

This information is targeted at all users of our pathology services including trust, primary, secondary and tertiary referrals and also applies to specimens and requests sent as part of the Antenatal Screening Programme.

Unlabelled or mislabelled samples

Blood Sciences and Immunology

  • Any requests or specimens received by the laboratory that are unlabelled or poorly labelled will not be analysed.

Blood Transfusion

  • It should be assumed that unless the sample is labelled completely and correctly, it will not be processed.
  • Please note that where Trusts have a ‘two sample’ rule, grouped blood products will not be issued unless two blood groups have been performed on two separate samples, taken on different occasions which have required separate patient identification checks.

Cytology

  • Cervical specimens that are not labelled adequately with patient identifiers will be discarded. A letter will be issued requesting a repeat specimen after three months.

Histology

  • If it is decided the sample cannot be repeated, the clinician must complete a pre-examination error form supplied by the laboratory. This form requires the clinician take full responsibility for an error, and requests additional patient information. Forms should be faxed, emailed or taken to lab. The reporting pathologist will also be informed of the incident prior to processing the specimen.
  • All pre-examination errors must have a comment in the report indicating this has taken place.

Microbiology

  • Microbiology will not contact the requesting clinician immediately, but will issue a report stating the fact that the sample/request is incorrectly labelled and so will not be processed.
  • The sample will be stored for a period of time allowing the requestor to contact the department (Consultant Microbiologist).
  • As soon as requester is aware they require a repeat test or additional tests on the sample, they should contact the laboratory as the specimen may have a short period of time in the lab before being discarded.
  • In exceptional circumstances, if the specimen cannot be repeated, it may be processed and reported, but with a comment describing what has happened.


Microbiology – exceptions

Certain samples are considered to be unrepeatable by the department and if they are incorrectly labelled they may  be analysed and reported, but with an appropriate comment added.

These samples include:

  • blood cultures
  • CSF
  • sterile fluids and aspirates
  • biopsies
  • tissues and bone from unrepeatable sites
  • samples taken in the operating theatre.

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