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Packing and sending samples

Packing a sample

Packing and sending samples

The SDGS laboratory is open to receive samples during normal office hours and from 9.30 to 11.30am on Saturday mornings.

All urgent samples must be despatched by special courier (taxi, hospital van), be clearly labelled as urgent and have telephone contact numbers listed in order to report results. Other specimens may be sent by first class mail.

Please avoid sending samples to arrive at the weekend or just prior to a Bank Holiday.

Blood Samples – for DNA extraction

  • Delayed in Transit: >3 days. Delays in transit can result in sample failure or sub-optimal results.

Blood is stable at room temperature for up to 7days when DNA extraction is required. DNA yield will decrease over time (Nederhand R.J. et al., 2003 J of Thrombosis and Haemostasis 1: 987-991) therefore the sample should be sent without delay.

Blood Samples – for RNA extraction

  • Delayed in transit: >1day Note: delay will lead to loss of RNA within cells; therefore the sample should be sent without delay, ideally to be received within 24hrs of sampling

 All samples for molecular genetic analysis, both DNA /RNA extraction, can be stored overnight at +4-8oC,  if there is an unavoidable delay between sample collection and dispatch. 

Safe packaging and transport of samples

Samples should be transported to the laboratory in such a way that ensures the safety of the courier, the general public and the receiving laboratory.

They must be packed and labelled according to the regulations for the transport of dangerous goods. They should be transported as UN3373 and should be packed using Packaging Instruction 650 (P650) outlined below:

  • samples should be collected into a leakproof primary container
  • this must be wrapped in sufficient absorbent material to absorb all possible leakage in the event of damage and then sealed in leakproof secondary packaging
  • the secondary packaging, along with the request form, must then be placed into an outer packaging
  • either the secondary or outer packaging should be rigid
  • the outer package must be clearly labelled with a diamond shaped mark containing UN3373 and Biological Substance Category B.
  1. Any label indicating a danger of infection must be attached to the secondary container. This label should not be visible on the outer package, but must be visible to whoever unpacks it before the secondary container is opened (see information below on sending high risk specimens).

Please also see the Department for Transport regulations for the transportation of samples.

Referral form instructions and sample labelling

All samples should be correctly labelled with the patient’s forename, surname and registration number or date of birth.

They should be accompanied by an appropriate referral form – see Documents and Forms section in sidebar.

Alternatively, please call 0114 271 7014 to arrange for a batch of referral forms to be sent to you.

All forms must contain the following information:

  • name
  • date of birth
  • address
  • hospital
  • hospital number
  • NHS number
  • referring consultant
  • date of collection
  • test required
  • clinical details – including any known, relevant family history

Inclusion of all relevant clinical details is important to allow meaningful interpretation of results.


Please contact the laboratory if any information on payment or pricing is required.

Sending high risk specimens

We are able to process some Category 3 risk specimens, but these should not be sent without prior consultation with the laboratory.

These samples should be clearly marked with high risk labels on the outer packaging and on the sample.

Blood borne viruses such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Hepatitis B, C and D (HBV, HCV, HDV) are categorised as Hazard Group 3.

Suspected Category 3 risk referrals e.g. intravenous drug users should be tested if possible before samples are sent to SDGS.

It is the responsibility of the referring clinician with knowledge of the individual case to determine if a specimen from a person in a high risk group actually presents a high risk.

We will accept and process any sample that is (or is at risk of being, by virtue of the patients behaviour, or other factors) positive for CJD, HTLV, HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. Samples with a significant risk of infection with a Category 4 or 3 pathogen (other than those BBV’s listed above) will not be processed, as we do not have full Containment level 3 facilities.

Samples must be clearly marked with ‘Danger of Infection’ stickers on the secondary packaging, clinical referral form and specimen container with clear details of the hazard involved on the clinical referral form.

Cases at risk of being infected with Category 3 pathogens other than the blood-born viruses, e.g. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, should not be sent without prior consultation with the laboratory as culture containment facilities for these may not be available.

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