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Clinical samples 'wrongly labelled'

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NHS pathology laboratories received tens of thousands of wrongly labelled clinical samples, an investigation has revealed.

A total of 365,608 specimens were mislabelled before they arrived at laboratories, figures from 120 trusts revealed in a survey under the Freedom of Information Act by More4 News showed. An additional 11,712 specimens were incorrectly labelled by lab staff.

It was also reported that mislabelling was found to be related to delays in patients’ treatment and deaths in 46 cases.

“Our laboratory, like many others, is very concerned about this. Most of those errors actually occurred because we are using hand-written request cards, they then come into the laboratory, we have to copy type them and that’s where these errors are coming into the system,” Professor John Kay, consultant for John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and spokesman for Royal College of Pathologists.

A Department of Health spokeswoman, who pointed out that only a “tiny fraction” of samples were affected, said: “This issue needs to be looked at in the context of the number of pathology tests the NHS carries out. In England the NHS tests and reports on 700 million pathology samples a year.”

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