Alert: Key clinical information on laboratory specimen request forms

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Intravenous news: The Health and Safety Executive report “The purpose of this Safety Notice is to alert health and social care services to potential risks to laboratory staff, if specimen request forms do not contain relevant details. It will be of particular relevance to medical staff within organisations that provide specimens from patients to laboratories for testing. This will include all persons who have direct patient contact who complete the electronic or paper specimen request forms e.g. clinicians, nurses and General Practitioners.

Following reports made under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), HSE’s Biological Agents Unit (BAU) have conducted a number of investigations at Clinical Diagnostic Laboratories. A common theme is the lack of sufficient relevant clinical details being provided on specimen request forms. This has resulted in samples being handled at the wrong biological containment level with resulting increased risk of infection to laboratory staff.

Medical staff should ensure that appropriate information, including relevant travel history is provided in order to alert laboratory staff of potential dangers. The most common occurrences have been in relation to the isolation and handling of Hazard Group 3 agents, Brucella or Salmonella spp from clinical samples that were initially processed at Containment Level 2. Similar problems could also occur when handling specimens that may contain other Hazard Group 3 or 4 Biological Agents.

Where appropriate arrangements have not been implemented; HSE Inspectors will take appropriate enforcement action in line with our enforcement policies and procedures.”

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