Specimen reception

Central Specimen Unit

Working in the Central Specimen Unit


CSU is the hub of the pathology department; patient samples will be sorted for testing


CSU will send these blood samples to the appropriate lab for testing; this may be immunology, microbiology, chemistry or haematology (amongst others)

Specimen reception plays one of the most important roles in the pathology department. It is here that patient samples from many different wards, clinics, departments, other hospitals and GPs arrive so they can be sorted and sent, with relevant information, to the appropriate laboratory including immunology for testing.


Many different types of sample come into this area from simple clotted blood to blood with different anti-coagulants added. It’s not just blood that arrives either, other sample types include; sputum, tissue swabs, bronchiole lavage fluid, cerebral spinal fluid and even urine and faeces. This unit is the first stop for a sample coming into the laboratory and it is crucially important that no mistakes are made at this stage. The mixing up of blood tubes from two different patients could have disastrous consequences.

The staff of the central specimen unit don’t have the same amount of specific scientific training as those in the diagnostic laboratory but they do need to get specialist training in order to do the job. The staff here must be able to work safely with potentially dangerous samples that can be an infection risk. They must also be able to work quickly whilst at the same time paying meticulous attention to detail to ensure that samples are sent as fresh as possible to the correct laboratory with the right information. Finally, it’s important for someone working in this department to gain an overall appreciation of each of the pathology laboratories, including the departments of immunology, microbiology, chemistry and haematology among others so that they know which tests are done by which lab.

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