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Specimen Transport (Cytology)

Specimen Transport

All Cytology samples must be sent to the laboratory on the next available transport.

Non-Gynae Samples

All unfixed Cytology cell samples will begin to degenerate from the moment of collection, thereby rendering them difficult to interpret and potentially unsuitable for diagnostic purposes.  In the interests of the patient, it is advisable that they be transported to the laboratory for processing as soon as is possible to minimise autolysis and promote accurate and timely reporting. To facilitate this, specimens must arrive in the laboratory correctly labelled and packaged and accompanied by an appropriate request form completed with the minimum data set and all relevant patient and clinical details.

In the event that this is not possible, to preserve the cellular material, please ensure all samples are refrigerated (2-8 degrees C). DO NOT FREEZE THE SAMPLE AS THIS WILL DAMAGE THE CELLS.

Due to the fragile nature of the Bronchoalveolar Lavages (BAL) and Cerebrospinal Fluids, these samples must be sent to the laboratory immediately after sample collection. BAL samples must be sent packed in crushed ice. Prior to specimen collection please notify the laboratory to ensure that there are staff available for immediate processing.


All samples sent to the laboratory should be packed so as to comply with the Carriage of Dangerous Goods (Classification, Packaging and Labelling) Regulations 1996 General Guidance

  • Use containers provided by Laboratory Medicine. These are designed to be robust and avoid leakage with normal use.
  • Ensure that the container is appropriate for the purpose, is tightly closed prior to transport and not contaminated on the outside.
  • Ensure high risk samples are clearly labelled with bio-hazard warning stickers.
  • After labelling, the samples should be placed in individual plastic transport bags.  They must be sealed securely using the ‘zip’ fastener without the use of clips or staples.
  • Place the corresponding sample request form in the integral side pocket of the transport bag, thereby keeping it separate from the sample to avoid the potential for contamination in the event of the sample leaking during transport.

Samples may be sent to the Laboratory in the following ways:

On-site transport

  • Specifically designed, fit-for-purpose, specimen transport boxes are used to transport samples within the Trust, by an on-site portering service to Laboratory Medicine Central Reception and from there they are delivered to Cytology by Laboratory Medicine Reception staff.
  • If a spillage occurs and is not contained within the specimen transport carrier please ring Pathology Reception using the number provided on the side of the box (0121 424 2252) and assistance will be provided. Do not leave a spill unattended.

Off-site arrangements

  • There is a daily courier pick-up system, provided by the Trust for General Practitioners (UK Mail couriers Tel: 0121 335 1169)
  • Assistance for dealing with spillage can be obtained by phoning the numbers on the transport carriers 0121 424 2252
  • There is a Hospital transport system linking the laboratory to other hospitals and clinics Trust wide.
  • Specimens from Solihull Hospital (SOL) or Good Hope Hospital (GHH) wards and departments must be sent to their respective Pathology Reception for transportation to the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital (BHH) site.
  • Transport   between SOL, BHH and GHH  is provided by a regular inter-site shuttle service with the support of a hospital courier van to provide additional backup and increased transport capacity as and when the need arises.  The shuttle bus timetable is available on the Trust intranet using the alphabetical search facility.
  • All specimens are received in BHH Laboratory Medicine Central Reception and from there delivered to Cytology by Laboratory Medicine porters. 
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