Packing & Labelling Specimens

General Guidance for Packaging & Labelling Pathology Specimens

Specimens and request forms must be labelled according to the Pathology Department Specimen Acceptance Policy. Specimens not conforming to this policy may be rejected and not analysed.

Specimen Containers

Various types and sizes of specimen container are available for collecting pathology specimens. Only approved, non-time expired,  containers must be used for collecting specimens. These, along with pathology request forms and specimen bags are available from Pathology Supplies.

In general and to avoid rejection, specimens must be labelled with two of the required key identifiers (blood transfusion and antinatal serology specimens require three), as described in the Pathology Specimen Acceptance Policy – see link above. Note, some specimen containers may not have a space or blank label allocated for patient i.d. (e.g. MRSA broth bottles). Such specimens are not excluded from the specimen acceptance policy and must be labelled as described above.

Pre-printed labels, (specifically designed for blood tubes), received from the A/E Department and from GP Label Trace printers are accepted on specimen containers as a means of identification but they must contain all required information. PAS addressograph labels should not be used on blood tubes as they are too large for the tube. Often, this type of label has to be removed from the blood tube, in the laboratory, so the tubes will fit into the analyser racks.  

Leaking specimens pose a health risk to those who handle them, and therefore may be also rejected and not analysed. Please ensure specimen container lids are secured correctly to help avoid the contents leaking out.

Specimen Bags

Specimens and request forms must be placed in purpose designed plastic specimen bags. The specimens must be placed in the specimen chamber which must be sealed, the request form placed in the side pocket.

Specimens and request forms must not be put in the same compartment in case of leaking containers.

Biochemistry and Haematology samples can be sent together, in the same specimen bag. The request form for these departments is in duplicate. If patient ID labels are used on the request forms, they must be attached to ALL sheets.

Although all samples should be treated as HIGH-RISK, (standard precautions), known high risk specimens must be labelled as ‘High Risk’.

Specimens should be transported to the laboratory using the supplied UN3373 compliant carriers. These are secure; contain an inner, replaceable lining for maximum sample & staff protection and safety and enough absorbent material to soak up the contents of the complete carrier. Various sizes are available for individual or multiple specimens, including satchels for night porters who have to multi task.

It is the prime responsibility of the user/sender to collect and package specimens according to the relevant legislation in force and these guidelines. The Pathology Dept. reserves the right to refuse acceptance of patients’ specimens, not packaged in accordance with current regulations which pose a hazard to its staff, couriers or other Health Care Workers.


Page updated 14/03/2013. NOTE: If printed, information on this page is only valid on day of printing.


Last updated: June 4, 2018