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Specimen transport

To the Halo

All samples are tracked and sent to the core laboratory at the Halo building using TDL couriers. There are a scheduled number of pickups throughout the day and night.

  • Samples have to be booked on the department’s Winpath LIMS system.
  • They are then tracked into relevant static floor boxes at the SRA.
  • Just before the courier pick up times, the samples in the static boxes are tracked and transferred into an appropriate Halo level transport box and the box set as dispatched.
  • TDL couriers pick up all the full transport boxes and transport to the Halo.
  • Once they arrive at the Halo, the couriers drop off the full boxes at the ground-floor SRA reception area, where the boxes are marked as having as arrived.
  • The boxes are then put into labelled dumb waiter trays, and put in the dumb waiters to the correct floors.
  • Once they have arrived at the correct floor, the transport boxes are receipted onto the floor, and the samples tracked out of the box into appropriate storage receptacles.


  • All samples from within the hospital sites are either sent to the SRA within the RRLs by airchute or by porters.
  • Samples received from centres referring into HSL via the hospital routes arrive at the RRL SRA either by courier, post or Hays tracked specimen transport services.

To 60 Whitfield St

  • Samples are received into the sample receipting area on the ground floor of 60 Whitfield Street.
  • For UCLH samples, they are delivered via the UCLH portering system and the pneumatic chute system. All other samples from users external to UCLH are delivered via the TDL courier system.

To other sites

  • Samples referred to other sites are either sent by registered post or, if the receiving laboratory is within the HSL/TDL group, through the TDL couriers.
  • High-risk specimens for Porton Down must be packaged in Category A packaging and couriered with couriers insured to carry these pathogens (e.g City Sprint).

Transport of specimens out of normal working hours

Each trust has an urgent pathway set up for getting samples to the Halo out of hours. This includes contacting the relevant clinical consultants for sign off, and then using the urgent pathway set-up through the individual SRAs.

High-risk samples

Samples from certain patient groups or disease processes (some listed below), should have their ‘high risk’ status noted on the request form.

This is best done by giving full medical history in the clinical details section of the request. Please indicate this to the forefront of the clinical details.

The provision of sufficient information on Specimen Request forms to staff in Clinical Diagnostic Laboratories is essential to enable them to apply the correct safety measures to control the risk of infection.

High risk samples are defined as coming from the following groups:

  • Those with known or suspected CJD
  • Those with known or suspected typhoid fever
  • Those with known or suspected Brucellosis
  • Suspected meningococcal meningitis
  • Faeces from patients with known / suspected typhoid, E coli 0157, dysentery
  • Sputum or bronchial washing/lavage from suspected or known TB
  • Pyrexia of unknown origin (PUO) – if patient has been abroad
  • Suspected diphtheria
  • Patients with suspected Histoplasma, Coccidioides or other dimorphic fungal infections.
  • Patients with suspected viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) infection.
  • Patients with suspected avian influenza viruses or MERS- CoV or other newly isolated human pandemic viruses.

Please refer to the following HSE guidance for the full Approved List of Biological Agents:

Special considerations

Please note that for any patient suspected of being infected with a viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) e.g. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or returning from travel to endemic areas with fever consultation should be sought from the Infectious Diseases (ID) team via switchboard on the patient assessment.

By definition, samples from these patients are considered to be extremely high risk (Hazard group 4 pathogens) and dictate a higher level of handling precautions.

Please refer to the Trust guidance for full instruction on the Management and Control of Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers http://freenet/guidelines/1035_Viral%20Haemorrhagic%20 Fever%20VHF.pdf

The laboratories are unable to process CSF samples containing CJD or other prions without prior arrangement. The receiving laboratory must be informed in advance of any sample being sent to them. The sample must be clearly labelled.

Each laboratory has its own protocol for dealing with specimens. It is unacceptable to send a specimen on such patient defined in Table 1 from the Infection Control Protocol – CJD and Other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies without informing the laboratory in advance.