Sample acceptance

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Sample acceptance policy

The national Sample Acceptance Policy was published in early 2017 and implemented from 1st September 2017.

By following the national guidance and rejecting samples that fail to meet the sample acceptance criteria, the laboratory will ensure that:

  1. The correct test result is issued to the correct women who attends for cervical screening
  2. There is a reduction in the time taken to issue cervical screening results

Cervical screening samples must satisfy minimum requirements and any errors that compromise the safety of the patient will result in the sample being rejected.

Essential specimen data requirements are;

  • Patient’s full name (at least first name and surname)
  • Patient’s date of birth
  • NHS number
  • Patient address
  • Name & address of GP
  • Name and address of sender
  • Sample taker personal ID – GMC or NMC number

In order to link the request form to the sample vial, at least 3 legible matching identifiers must be given on both the form and the vial;

  • Full forename (or initial on vial)
  • Full surname
  • Date of Birth
  • NHS number

All rejections are coded in the laboratory with the relevant error code. This provides the laboratory with a means of auditing rejected samples and providing feedback to the Screening and Immunisation Teams.

Minor discrepancies

Minor discrepancies will be accepted as the patient identity is known;

  1. Spelling error in patient name but the name sounds the same (homonyms)
  2. Transposition of a single digit within the date of birth or NHS number
  3. Specimen without form or vice versa – contact the sample taker to seek an explanation
  4. Request form without sender details – check Open Exeter and phone GP to confirm

Major discrepancies

Major discrepancies constitute a serious risk as the patient identity is uncertain and the sample must be rejected;

  1. Absence of two or more essential data items
  2. Mismatch between the vial and the form
  3. Two or more minor discrepancies
  4. Unlabelled vial

Sample acceptance policy – rejection categories

Error code Reason for rejection
E1 Vial, no form (or wrong style form)
E2 Form, no vial
E3 Unlabelled vial
E4 Partially labelled vial
E5 Discrepant details on vial & form
E6 Insufficient patient ID on form
E7 Patient details differ from cytology LIMS/Exeter
E8 Invalid PIN code
E9A Vial leaked, no fluid
E9B Incorrect sample container used
E10 Illegible patient details on form or vial
E11 Out of programme sample due to:

  • Under 24 years 6 months
  • Over 65 years
  • Early repeat
  • Vault sample taken in primary care
  • Post-radiotherapy treatment
E12 Out of date vial


(Last reviewed August 2021)