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Transport of specimens

Transport of Specimens to the Laboratory

1. Purpose and Scope of Document

Specimen transportation systems need to ensure the timely arrival of specimens at the correct destination at minimum risk to both laboratory and non laboratory personnel. This document describes the precautions and actions that need to be taken during transporting samples to Laboratory Medicine at The Bristol Royal Infirmary from within the hospital by porters and other staff and from outside hospitals within UHBristol. Pathology samples might contain micro-organisms capable of infecting others. The instructions are intended to minimise the risk of infection to those people transporting samples, and to the public at large.

2. Policy & Procedure

2.1 Specimen transport within the BRI and adjacent hospitals provided by hospital transport
To prevent infection samples are normally contained in leak resistant tubes or bottles that are placed within leak resistant plastic bags.

Additional risk of infection arises when:
The outside of a sample container or its plastic bag is contaminated at source.
A sample leaks in transit.
A sample is dropped and breaks in transit.
A sample is dropped and its loss is not noticed.

Instructions to reduce additional risk
To minimise the chance of dropping specimens, carry all specimens in a pathology collection trolley, or transport box, or plastic carrier bag, do not carry by hand or place in a pocket. Plastic carriers are available for emergency collections from clinics and wards in the porters lodge and pathology.

If a specimen is found to be leaking on collection, refuse to handle it, and inform the ward or department Sister/Manager.

If a specimen leaks on route, tell the reception staff on returning to the laboratory. They will arrange for it to be cleaned up.

If a specimen is dropped and the container breaks or leaks, do not touch it. Contact the laboratory Ex 23080, or if on ward or clinic, inform Sister/Senior nurse. If no one is available to inform, try and protect the soiled area with chairs or other objects and call for assistance (e.g. Laboratory Medicine Reception or the main porter's lodge Ex 22631).

Van drivers observing leaking specimens while in transit, cover the spill with absorbent material e.g. cotton wool or paper, and request the assistance of the laboratory on return to the hospital (ext 23080). If a breakdown or an accident occurs do not allow anyone to touch the specimens unless they represent the Pathology directorate.

2.2 Additional requirement for public transport (taxi)
All specimens will be placed in screw capped plastic containers and placed inside a transport box that indicates the contents are pathological samples. The outside of the box will also be labelled to include contact details for the laboratory in case of loss of the sample or spillage.

2.3 Action in the event of personal injury by a sample or needlestick
If you suffer personal injury (e.g. cut yourself), and the wound might be contaminated with a leaking or spilled specimen, or if a specimen splashes in your eye, treat the incident as a sharps injury and immediately follow the trust procedure Stop what you are doing, wash wound with soap and water (do not use antiseptics etc) and encourage bleeding if appropriate THEN reported to UHBristol Occupational Health Service immediately using the Needlestick Hotline on Tel: (0117) 34 24987. During office hours you will be dealt with straight away. Out of office hours contact Switchboard on External Tel: (0117) 342 0000 or Internal Tel: 100. They will arrange for the Occupational Health Doctor on call to contact you and give the necessary advice.

2.4 Protection of samples from deterioration and reporting of incidents
Samples will be protected from deterioration by the provision of a regular collection service by a formal van collection and porters rounds during the day (details are available from specimen reception). Out of hours an air tube and a portering service are available. Additionally advice and facilities are available for the transport of samples on ice or those that need urgent separation. Any incidents that occur during specimen transport will be reported to the pathology reception supervisor.