Blood is a delicate specimen that requires a tremendous amount of care – much more so compared to traditional everyday cargo. It therefore comes as no surprise that blood, blood samples and blood products need to be cautiously shipped from one location to another, whether you are transporting it to a hospital, GP practice, university facility or biotechnology lab.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to transport blood samples correctly and in compliance with applicable UK blood storage regulations. You’ll learn about the importance of safe blood transport, the associated hazards and dangers, and some practical solutions you can implement in your supply chain for mitigating these risks.

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Jag Express has specialist healthcare logistics solutions, including blood courier services.

Importance of safe blood sample transport

The storage and transport of human blood is a complex process that requires a high level of care. The proper and lawful practice of transporting blood ensures that the samples avoid becoming lost or contaminated.  

Organisations require the transport of blood for various reasons. Hospitals, medical practices and the NHS need them to treat their patients, such as through blood transfusions. Laboratories need them to conduct tests and experiments. Universities need them to conduct research and further our knowledge. 

Healthy blood samples (and blood products from plasma to platelets) are vital for conducting various diagnostic tests, disease screening, blood typing and monitoring treatment effectiveness. As such, they must be correctly stored and transported if organisations want to ensure they deliver reliable patient care and/or produce accurate research outcomes.

The risks of incorrect blood sample transport

Various hazards and dangers are associated with blood transport. They need to be addressed early to ensure the safety not only of the specimens that are shipped – but (for medical facilities) the patients who need them for treatment. These risks include:

1. Biological hazards

Blood samples may contain pathogens or infectious substances such as bacteria, viruses or parasites. Mishandling or improper transport of blood samples can pose a risk of infection to healthcare workers, laboratory personnel, patients and the general public. Ensuring proper containment and handling of biohazardous materials is essential to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

2. Physical hazards

Improper handling, packaging and couriering of blood samples can lead to physical dangers. If they are shipped in glass transport tubes, these may break during transportation, causing injuries and potential exposure to infectious material.

If transporting blood in plastic tubes (which occurs in most cases), it may also spill if not packaged properly in a leakproof outer bag. Sharp objects may also puncture and create a hole in the container, creating another spillage risk. Spilled blood can create slippery surfaces, increasing the risk of accidents and falls.

3. Exposure to dangerous chemicals

Blood samples, if not sealed properly, may become contaminated with external chemicals such as cleaners or disinfectants. These products may be used to clean the containers and, if combined with samples, may harm their integrity. This can ultimately result in inaccurate test results.

Trust Jag Express to safely transport blood samples across the UK and worldwide.

How do you transport blood safely?

If you need to know how to transport blood samples safely and effectively, the following steps should be taken:

1. Use the right containers and packaging

Use appropriate blood sample transport containers designed for safe and secure transportation. These containers could include transport tubes, biohazard bags or specimen cups.

Biohazard bags should be used to enclose blood samples securely and labeled with appropriate biohazard symbols. Sharps containers should be used to store any sharp items, such as needles or lancets. Specimen cups and transport tubes provide leak-proof and secure storage for blood samples.

Such containers are commonly used when shipping liquid blood samples because they effectively safeguard from spillage or leakage. They are also easy to label.

Packaging that is commonly used outside of the containers can include paper towels, cotton bails or super-absorbent packaging. This helps the containers stay dry.

2. Comply with applicable blood transport regulations

Adherence to relevant regulations is vital for safe blood transport.

For example, if you are shipping infectious substances (such as materials contaminated with bloodborne viruses), it is important to take into account the guidelines published by the Health and Safety Executive.

These guidelines explain the dual classification system of infectious substances, the triple packaging system required by UN Division 6.2 – infectious substances and transportation requirements.

Other regulations for the transport of blood may include the Blood Safety and Quality Regulations 2005 or EU Directive 2002/98/EC.

If you are unsure what regulations apply to your shipment, then it is always a good idea to seek professional advice.

3. Don’t expose blood to extreme temperatures

Blood should not be exposed to extreme temperatures during transportation. Extreme heat can lead to denaturation of proteins and degradation of cellular components, while extreme cold can cause crystal formation and cell damage.

What is the correct temperature to transport blood?

Ideally, you should transport your blood in a temperature that is appropriate to the specific sample in use.

In general, blood samples for routine tests are typically transported at temperatures between 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F).

Part 4 of the Schedule to the Blood Safety and Quality Regulations 2005 specify that:

  • Red cell preparations and whole blood (if used for transfusion as whole blood) should be stored between 2-6°C.
  • Platelet preparations should be stored between 20-24°C.

Use insulated containers or ship your samples in temperature-controlled vehicles to maintain the appropriate temperature range for blood samples.

This range helps maintain the stability and integrity of the sample. However, specific tests or specialised samples may have different temperature requirements.

It is crucial to consult the test requisition or guidelines provided by the laboratory or healthcare provider, and seek advice from a professional blood courier, to determine the appropriate temperature range for transport.

4. Ensure your vehicle is clean

Cleanliness of the transportation vehicle is essential to prevent cross-contamination and maintain the integrity of blood samples. Regularly clean and disinfect the vehicle, and especially in the event of a spillage. Pay particularly close attention to high-touch surfaces and use appropriate disinfectants to ensure a clean vehicle. You should also proper waste disposal procedures to minimise the risk of exposure to biological hazards.

5. Don’t shake the blood during transport

Agitating or shaking blood samples during transport can lead to hemolysis, which is effectively the rupture of red blood cells. Hemolysis can alter the composition of the sample and affect test results, leading to inaccurate diagnoses, poor patient care and the need to repeat blood tests.

Handle blood samples gently and ensure they are kept in an upright position to minimise the risk of hemolysis.

6. Engage a professional blood courier service

In situations where specialised handling and transportation expertise are required, it is strongly advisable to engage a professional blood courier – in other words, a courier with experience and knowledge of the regulations set out by the HSE, and the transportation of sensitive and potential pathogenic and infectious substances’

These couriers are trained in proper blood sample handling, packaging and transportation techniques. They also have the necessary knowledge and experience to ensure the safe and timely delivery of blood samples to the designated laboratory or facility.

Need your move your blood samples?

If you’re wondering how to transport blood samples from one place to another, leave the job in the hands of blood courier professionals.

Here at Jag Express, our network enables your team to prepare and schedule shipments at short notice. We can be your specialised courier service for blood and medical supplies, or a one-stop provider for all your delivery requirements. We can provide same day delivery, next day delivery and international solutions.

With our decades of expertise and adherence to industry regulations, our logistics company can ensure the integrity of your samples during transit. Reach out now and experience peace of mind in transporting your valuable blood samples.

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