Using Pathology efficiently

Help us to help you.

1. Complete the request forms - especially patient demographics (with Trust/NHS number), destination for report, and bleep/telephone – all the boxes are there for a good reason.

Click here for information on completing request forms correctly. Note that for most investigations a minimum of three patient identifiers (name, surname, DOB, NHS and/or hospital number) are required on form and sample.

If you are not using electronic requesting, please use your WinPath location and requestor codes so that reports can be returned to you. Click here for a list of BSUH destination codes.. If you need to find out your correct codes please contact us.

2. Avoid unnecessary telephone enquiries. Use this site to find information about the laboratory, sample requirements and reference ranges.

3. Do not take unnecessary blood samples. Refer to this site for the correct type. Under the present system, unnecessary samples cannot be logged in at Pathology Reception as a “spare” or “just in case” because the lab computer has no test logged for them.

4. Fill the sample bottles to the mark. Short samples cannot be handled automatically, which causes delay and increases the risk of an error.

5. Avoid haemolysis. Green needles are standard, and cannula samples are problematic (if essential use wide bore cannula and discard initial sample).

6. Put routine* chemistry test (e.g. protein, glucose) samples in Vacuette® evacuated sample tubes. This includes pleural fluid, and tests on random PLAIN urine (best filled with a quill). This is safer for you, safer for the lab, and more efficient for the lab. Pleural fluid in an open container should be handled in a safety cabinet, but a closed container is acceptable in an open lab. Please mark the specimen type clearly on the request form to avoid confusion with blood samples.

*This does not apply to specialist tests e.g. CSF for oligoclonal bands or xanthochromia scans, nor urine immunoelectrophoresis.

7. Use open universal containers with borate preservative for urine microbiology (but note these are unsuitable for chemistry tests).

8. Avoid frequent unnecessary repeat tests. Is there really a clinical reason to do the test again? Junior staff are more likely to be criticised for unnecessary testing than infrequent testing.

9. Do not send batches of routine samples late or out of hours. Please send to Pathology as soon as they have been taken. Large batches of samples delay urgent reports.

10. Avoid telephone enquiries for results. Please make sure that you can all operate the ICE Desktop program that is available on any BSUH computer. This gives access to all pathology reports, in all pathology disciplines, over both BSUH sites, whether requested in general practice or hospital. Help to get going with this is available from Chris Ball in Pathology if required, and the access request form is downloadable from the Pathology IT page here.


Please feel free to contact us with suggestions on how the pathology service might be improved, or visit pathology (level 6 at RSCH, level 1 at PRH) if you would like to see what goes on and encourage inter-departmental cooperation to improve the service to patients.