Specimen transport

ecourier transport

Since April 2022, Ecourier have been the dedicated courier for the East and South East London Pathology Partnership. Ecourier currently do a fantastic job of providing the transport service between GP surgeries, clinics and hospitals.


If a pick up has been missed or you wish to request an ad hoc journey, please contact Ecourier directly at ESEL@ecourier.co.uk


All samples must be presented to the person undertaking transport in a safe and suitable manner that complies with necessary regulations. It is the responsibility of the sender that samples are collected and packaged safely.

Pneumatic chute information

Pneumatic chute system

It is important to note that most hospital collected samples will be sent via the air-tube system. If the system is not working or for large and/or prohibited samples, request a porter and call/log with estates.

To maintain sample integrity, samples need to be transported to the Laboratory within a reasonable time frame close to room temperature.  Please refer to Department specific user handbook’s for sample and special transport requirements.

Urgent Samples

It is the responsibility of the person taking the sample to inform a porter of the urgency or to send the sample through the air-tube delivery system and follow this up with a phone call if possible.

Samples that cannot be sent via the pneumatic tube system.

The system must NOT be used for the below. Please use a porter

  • Histology samples of any kind
  • Urgent CSF samples
  • Urgent Fluid samples
  • 24-hour urine collections
  • Blood-gas samples in syringes or capillary tubes
  • Samples from patients known or potentially infected with CJD, viral haemorrhagic fevers (e.g. Ebola), MERS or Hazard Group 4 pathogens*


Samples should be packaged appropriately in the polythene bags supplied and secured in the air tube sample carrier. If necessary include paper towels to prevent movement of the sample during transport and help prevent breakages and leaks.
It is the responsibility of the sender to ensure that:

·         The sample is labelled, packed appropriately and is accompanied by the relevant paperwork

·         The air tube sample carrier is secured properly before transport

·         The air tube sample carrier is sent to the correct destination

·         System faults are logged with estates

Instructions for use of the Air tube system are present at each terminal.

Spillages and Leaks in Transit

·     Sample bags containing leaking containers will be discarded and the sender notified in order that a repeat sample can be taken. Every effort will be made to rescue non-repeatable samples but the ability to do this will be limited by health and safety considerations.

·     If the spillage/leak has contaminated the inside of the air-tube container, then the container will be taken out of use and cleaned thoroughly and decontaminated by laboratory personnel.

·     If there is any suspicion that the leak/spillage may have contaminated the air- tube itself, the system will be closed down until cleaned and disinfected. In these circumstances the person noticing the leak should immediately contact the estates helpdesk. 

·     Porters will then assume responsibility for the transport of specimens until the system has been properly cleaned and disinfected .

·    All samples, but particularly those from patients suspected of having certain blood borne and other infectious diseases, constitute a hazard to portering and laboratory staff handling the sample. All samples are therefore managed according to standard principles applied universally.

·    Staff are reminded to wear examination gloves (latex free) when in contact with blood, body fluids or tissue.

     If you have a patient in a particularly high risk group, e.g. viral haemorrhagic fever, SARS, anthrax, Covid-19 etc, and are in doubt about the feasibility of a test, please contact the Microbiology Department and speak to the Consultants before taking or sending any samples.

How to package patient samples

Sample Packaging

All sample containers must be properly closed and packed in the airtight polythene bags, with the request form in the attached unsealed pouch if applicable. 
Samples from different patients must be sent in separate bags.
Additionally, to ensure that specimens are delivered to the correct department as quickly as possible, it is best practice to send samples for the same patient separately.
Please make sure that lids are securely fastened to prevent leaks. This may lead to sample rejection.