- Types of samples
- Get the right container
- Make sure it’s properly labelled
- Preparing for a blood test
- Get approval for your test
- What happens during a blood test
- What to expect after a blood test
- How to get your test results
- Further sources of information
- Some facts about blood tests taken at Bruntsfield
Types of samples
The Practice may take, or ask you to submit, a sample of some type if we think it would aid us in investigating your condition. These samples include, but aren’t limited to:
– Nail clippings
Get the right container
All of these types of samples require specialised containers in order to ensure the safety and integrity of the sample to make sure there are no contaminations. If you are asked to submit a sample (e.g. a urine sample) please ensure you have an approved sample container first. We can’t accept any improvised containers that you have obtained yourself from home.
Make sure it’s properly labelled
If you are submitting a sample that you have brought in with you please check that you have written your details (name, date of birth and date of sample) on the container so that we know who the sample belongs to and who the results are for. If a sample is submitted without these details it will not be processed.
Preparing for a blood test
Blood tests are the most common type of test the Practice will do to investigate your condition. These will mostly be taken by our Practice Nursing team or our Phlebotomist, all of whom have years of experience taking blood samples.
There are several things you may need to consider ahead of getting your blood taken, and a few things you can do to make the process a little easier:
– Do you need to fast beforehand?
Some blood tests need you to fast for around 12 hours before the sample is taken, so make sure you understand if this is needed, and from what time you will need to stop eating and drinking the night before
– Do you need to stop any of your medication?
Some medications can interfere with the results of blood test, so make sure you understand if there are any restrictions with the tests you will be getting. DO NOT stop your medications unless instructed by your doctor or nurse though.
– Are you hydrated enough?
Being properly hydrated can make drawing blood easier. The veins will be bigger and easier to find and your blood will flow easier into the tubes, so making sure you’re drinking enough water. If you’ve been asked to fast before your test, make sure to hydrate the day before.
– Are you anxious or afraid of needles?
Don’t be embarrassed if you get anxious before a blood test as this is a very common reaction. Let your nurse or phlebotomist know if you’re having difficulty with the process and they will try to make it as easy on you as they can.
Get approval for your test
Please note that our Nursing and Phlebotomist team are not permitted to go ahead with blood tests that are not approved by the GPs in advance. If you have a condition, or are on a treatment, that requires regular blood tests then this will be mentioned in your medical record, so you don’t need to have a GP agree before each test, but any ad-hoc tests do need approval in advance.
If you feel that you would benefit from a specific test being carried out, please make an appointment with your usual GP to discuss it.
What happens during a blood test
The arm is a convenient part of the body to use because it can be easily uncovered. The usual place for a sample to be taken from is the inside of the elbow or wrist, where the veins are relatively close to the surface.
A tight band (tourniquet) is usually put around your upper arm. This squeezes the arm, temporarily slowing down the flow of blood and causing the vein to swell. This makes it easier for a sample to be taken.
Before taking the sample, the doctor or nurse may clean the area of skin with an antiseptic wipe.
A needle attached to a syringe or special container is inserted into the vein. The syringe is used to draw out a sample of your blood. You may feel a slight pricking or scratching sensation as the needle goes in, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you don’t like needles and blood, tell the person who is taking the sample so they can make you more comfortable.
When the sample has been taken, the needle will be removed. Pressure is applied to the skin for a few minutes using a cotton-wool pad. A plaster may be put on the small wound to keep it clean.
What to expect after a blood test
Only a small amount of blood is taken during the test so you shouldn’t feel any significant after-effects.
However, some people feel dizzy and faint during and after the test. If this has happened to you in the past, tell the person carrying out the test so they’re aware and can help you feel more comfortable.
After the test, you may have a small bruise where the needle went in. Bruises can be painful, but are usually harmless and fade over the next few days.
How to get your test results
The majority of blood tests will return to the Practice within a few days, but we also need time for an admin member of staff to process the result and send it to the appropriate GP. The GP will then need time to review the result and make a decision about any follow-up that might be needed. This means most results will be ready to be communicated within a week of the sample being taken. Your doctor or nurse will let you know if your particular result will take longer.
If your results are ABNORMAL, or need to be followed up in any way, someone from the Practice will be in touch over the phone or in writing to let you know, or you will be asked to come back in for a review with your GP.
If your results are NORMAL and need no further follow-up, it is NOT our policy to contact patients directly to let them know.
If you would still like confirmation of this for yourself then you are welcome to call the Practice on 0131 228 6081, preferably after 2pm, to speak to one of the reception staff. Please remember that our reception team are not permitted to give any clinical opinion on your results and can only communicate any comments left by the GPs.
Further sources of information
labtestsonline.org.uk – an index of lab tests with further information about each
nhsinform.scot – this Scottish health information site has a section on blood tests
patient.info – this UK health information site has a section on blood tests
Some facts about blood tests at Bruntsfield Medical Practice
– The Practice takes an average of around 575 blood samples every month
– The majority of our blood samples are tested at the Royal Infirmary, but some more specialised tests need to be sent to other hospitals outside Edinburgh in order to be processed
– The last transportation van to the lab for blood samples arrives around 3pm so we don’t schedule any blood tests after 2.30pm to ensure everything is ready for pick-up
– A phlebotomist is someone specially trained to draw blood from a patient for clinical or medical testing. The Practice has one phlebotomist (Hannah) who works Mon-Thu mornings
– Practice Nurse Shona usually has a small number of early morning appointment slots from 8am on a Mon and Tue specifically for taking blood samples to help those who need blood taken before work
– The creation of this page is a result of work done by Dr Carswell and the IT Department on patient safety and ‘making results handling safer’. A write up on elements of this work can be found here.