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Specimen Acceptance Policy - MMMP

This policy ensures adequate identification criteria for pathology specimens and request forms in order for them to be accepted by the laboratory for analysis.

It is the requester's responsibility to ensure that all details are correct, clearly written and that the specimen details match those on the form and patient wrist band (if applicable).

Inadequately or inaccurately labelled specimens or forms will not be accepted unless they are considered to be 'unrepeatable'.

A classification of 'unrepeatable' will be on an individual basis and in these cases the requester may be required to come to the laboratory to amend their request information and to document that they have done so.

Any labelling discrepancy will be included on the pathology report. Inadequate or inaccurate labelling results in delays before pathology results are available and hence affects patient care.

Mandatory Labelling Requirement Action by Laboratory if requirement not met

Specimens MUST be labelled with a minimum of 3 unique identifiers from:
unique identification number (eg hospital number)

  • Last name
  • First name
  • Date of birth

The request form data MUST match the above information on the specimen or be labelled with another suitable unique identifier.

Drug administered, dose, time of last dose, time of specimen in relation to dose for therapeutic drug monitoring

Multiple specimens taken at different times on a patient MUST be labelled on the specimen container with the time (24 hr clock) when the specimen is taken. The request form should be labelled accordingly.

No analysis will be performed. The event may be reported as an incident on the Trust incident report system

Where the specimen is repeatable/reproducible, no analysis will be performed and the specimen will be discarded.

Where the specimen is unrepeatable/unreproducible, the risk to the patient of rejection of the specimen must be weighed against the risk of acceptance of a wrongly labelled specimen, local procedures will be followed.

Laboratory Medicine will accept no responsibility for specimens analysed which initially failed to meet the acceptance criteria and will issue a disclaimer on such reports.


The request form data MUST match the above specimen information
  • Last name
  • First name
  • Date of birth/unique identification number

Request forms SHALL also contain:
  • the patient's location/destination for the report (or a location code)
  • Tests required
  • Name of Consultant or GP
  • Name of the requester and contact number (bleep or extension)
  • Patient gender
  • Date and time of specimen collection
  • Anatomical site and type of specimen
  • (where relevant)
  • All relevant clinical information
  • Patient address for GP requests

A lack of patient or specimen information may result in the laboratory not conducting the analysis/examination

Examples could include:

  • no swab site indicated
  • no dates and times of sampling
  • no clinical details given
  • location for report delivery not given

It may not be possible to issue a report or to interpret results.

Appropriate comments will be made on the report where this can be issued.


Good practice demands the provision of more than the minimum of information.

The use of NHS number is becoming more prevalent and will be considered as an essential identifying criterion in future policy. The DLM is currently reviewing ways in which this can be implemented.

Anonymous/uniquely identified specimens and requests

In certain circumstances, patient identification details are intentionally hidden or substituted with particular ID numbers (eg. Sexual Health, clinical trials, donor specimens), in such instances, a properly coded identifier must be used in place of the patient last name and first name.

Clinical and epidemiological information

To ensure samples can be safely and appropriately tested in the laboratory, information including details of foreign travel, symptoms and known or suspected contact with other patients known to have communicable disease is important.

For example, samples likely to contain high risk pathogens [as described by the Advisory Committee for Dangerous Pathogens] are handled at a higher containment level to safeguard both laboratory staff and other downstream workers.

The information is also of benefit to the patient ensuring that appropriate testing is performed to safeguard the patient and benefit their patient journey.