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Sample acceptance

Sample acceptance policy

A recent audit has again shown that the most common reason for rejecting samples at specimen reception is unlabelled vials. Please check that all vials are labelled and match the request form before despatch to the laboratory. Rejected samples mean the woman may have to undergo a repeat test. Note, rejected samples are now recorded on the CSTD against the individual sample taker.

The national sample acceptance policy was published in early 2017 and implemented from 1st September 2017.

By following the national guidance and rejecting samples that fail to meet the sample acceptance criteria, the laboratory will ensure that:

1. The correct test result is issued to the correct women who attends for cervical screening

2. There is a reduction in the time taken to issue cervical screening results

Cervical screening samples must satisfy minimum requirements and any errors that compromise the safety of the patient will result in the sample being rejected.

Essential specimen data requirements are:

  • Patient's full name i.e. at least first name and surname (2 identifiers)
  • Patient's date of birth
  • NHS number
  • Patient address
  • Name & address of GP
  • Name and address of sender
  • Sample taker personal ID - GMC or NMC number

In order to link the form to the sample vial, at least 3 legible matching identifiers must be given on both the form and the vial:

  • Full forename (or initial on vial)
  • Full surname
  • Date of Birth
  • NHS number (ideally this should be used on all requests)
  • Patient address

All rejections are coded in the laboratory with the relevant error code. This provides the laboratory with a means of auditing rejected samples and providing feedback to the Screening and Immunisation Teams.

Minor discrepancies

Minor discrepancies will be accepted as the patient identity is known

1. Spelling error in patient name but the name sounds the same (homonyms

2. Transposition of digits within the date of birth or NHS number

3. Specimen without form, or vice versa - contact the sample taker to seek an explanation

4. Request form without sender details - check Open Exeter and phone GP to confirm

Major discrepancies

Major discrepancies constitute a serious risk as the patient identity is uncertain and the sample must be rejected.

1. Absence of two or more essential data items

2. Mismatch between the vial and the form

3. Two or more minor discrepancies

4. Unlabelled vial


(Last reviewed November 16th 2017)