Collecting a Sample

Important Considerations prior to sampling

It is the responsibility of the healthcare professional obtaining the sample to check the identity of the patient prior to taking the sample as per guidelines provided by their department.
The healthcare professional taking the sample should record the date and time of collection  on the form or trak request, and should also record their identity either in the patients notes or on the form/trak request as having taken the specimen.
Materials used in the collection of patient samples should be disposed of in accordance with the NHS Lothian Waste Disposal Policy.
Please note the following general points, and check the Test Directory for specific information:
Patient preparation
Is fasting required?  Is the patient on medication that might interfere?
Risk of infection
See below
Laboratories will not accept externally contaminated containers
Specimen order of draw
Refer to section on order of draw for multiple sampling with Sarstedt collection tubes
Time of specimen collection
Time of day, time since drug administration, time since chest pain
For Microbiology Samples take the specimen before antimicrobial therapy has started where possible.
Collection container
Is serum or plasma needed?  Are special preservatives needed (e.g. fluoride oxalate for glucose)?
Details of the correct specimen collection tube for investigations are provided in the
The laboratory performing the test
Is it a Biochemistry or Haematology test? (e.g. antibiotics are measured in Microbiology, most auto-antibodies are measured in Immunology)
Transport to the laboratory
Some tests (blood gases, hormones) require rapid delivery of the sample to the laboratory.  See below and details under the relevant test.


Microbiology Samples


For Microbiology samples there is a National Infection control Manual that can be found here providing guidance for clinical staff.

For patient advice on how to collect a stool sample please click here and read the "Special Instructions for Collection" section
For patient advice on how to collect a urine sample please click here.

For advice on how to take a blood culture please click here and read the "Special Instructions for Collection" section