Specimen Labelling

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Specimen labelling

It is important that the patient’s personal details on a pathology sample should match exactly the same details on the corresponding request form.

Remember – unlabelled or mislabelled specimens and incorrect request forms carry a great clinical risk. They will not be analysed (unless deemed unrepeatable) and repeat specimens will need to be carried out thereby delaying any results and /or diagnosis.

Separate labelling requirements exist for Transfusion requests(e.g. group and Save, Crossmatch) as per national guidance.

Please click below to see the specific labelling and sample acceptance criteria for requests


All pathology samples (other than transfusion requests).

As a minimum, the sample must be legibly labelled with the following:

  • Patient's full surname
  • Patient’s full forename (initials are not sufficient)
  • Patients Date of Birth
  • Patient’s unique coded identifier (e.g. NHS number, Case Note Number or District Number)
  • The use of the NHS number should be included wherever possible as the coded identifier as this assists with correct patient identity for samples generated both within the hospital and primary care settings.
  • For Department of Sexual Health (DOSH) cases it is acceptable to use the DOSH number as well as the DOB as the identifiers.
  • In MAJAX cases specific MAJAX numbers will be allocated as the unique patient identifier. 


In addition, the following is also required:


  • The date and time the sample was obtained
  • The nature of the sample including qualifying details (e.g. left, distal, etc) if more than one sample is submitted for a request form. 

Please state the details of the person collecting the sample on the request form.


The actual labelling of the sample should take place immediately after (not before) the sample has been placed in the sample container and while next to the patient.

The use of labels on the sample is acceptable provided that the label is only generated whilst at the patient’s side. The use of pre-printed addressograph labels is actively discouraged.

With regard to In-patients, the information on the wrist band must match the information on the sample and the request form and, if possible, be confirmed verbally with the patient

With regards to Out-patient and GP originated samples, the name and date of birth information must be confirmed verbally with the patient.


Microscope slide samples (e.g. FNAs, FOBs, Mycology, Sellotape slides)

Due to space restrictions these samples will be deemed adequate if the slide frosted end is labelled with:

  • Patient’s surname
  • Patient’s forename
  • Patient’s date of birth          

The information must be recorded in pencil as ink is dissolved by the laboratory staining protocols in use.