National Prion Clinic


Transfer of samples

Blood samples (packaging and transport):

It is the responsibility of the person (doctor, nurse or phlebotomist or practitioner) taking the sample from the patient to ensure that the specimen container is correctly identified (i.e. surname, forename, hospital number and date of birth).  The requesting doctor, nurse or practitioner must ensure that the diagnostic test consent / request forms are completed correctly (link to consent forms) and accompanies the specimen (the consent / request form must be protected from the specimen).

  • The laboratory is unable to process incorrectly or unlabelled specimens or specimens without a completed consent / request form.  Where possible use a printed label.  If hand writing the label, please print details clearly.

  • Please ensure the sample reaches us without delay, as increased transport times may affect the quality of the specimen.

Blood samples should be transported at room temperature.  The following information explains how samples should be packaged and delivered.  Alternately Contact the National Prion Clinic (Tel: 0203 448 4037/38) who will advise you on how to transport the blood. 

How should the sample be packed? 

Sound packaging is essential to avoid the breakage of containers during transport. A "Triple Layer" system of packaging should be used (figure 1), which comprises a primary leak proof receptacle within a secondary leak proof receptacle contained in an outer rigid package.  This is to meet legislation and regulatory requirements.

  1. Primary receptacle (e.g. Vacutainer): Labelled primary watertight, leak-proof receptacle containing the specimen.  The receptacle is wrapped in enough absorbent material to absorb fluid in case of breakage.

  2. Secondary receptacle: A second durable, watertight, leak-proof receptacle to enclose and protect the primary receptacle(s).  Sufficient additional absorbent material should be used to cushion multiple primary receptacles and absorb all fluid in case of breakage.

  3. Outer shipping package.  The secondary receptacle is placed in an outer shipping package, which protects it and its content from outside influences such as physical damage and water whilst in transit.  Outer packaging can be requested by the courier provider. 

Get Resource
When is a Royal Mail Safebox acceptable to transport a specimen?

The preference is for specimens to be shipped in line with standard hospital protocols for the shipment of diagnostic / clinical samples.

Royal Mail will accept and carry most infectious substances if classified, packaged and labelled correctly.  A Royal Mail Safebox may be used to ship blood samples (up to 50mls) from patients with all types of prion disease.  The outer package should be clearly labelled Diagnostic Specimen or Clinical Specimen and must show the sender's and the National Prion Clinic’s Laboratory delivery address.

National Prion Clinic sample delivery address labels can be

We will supply pre-printed labels / shipment packages on request.

Further information on Royal Mail Safebox can be accessed at www.royalmail.com.

Diagnostic specimens, assigned to UN 3373 include human materials being transported only for the purpose of diagnosis or investigation.  Category B infectious substances are controlled by UN/ECE Regulation UN3373. Within this regulation is Packing Instruction PI650, which defines specifications for the packaging used to transport infectious substances.