Bacterial contamination

Follow these instructions if a patient suffers a reaction during or following transfusion, and you want to rule out bacterial transmission.

Visual abnormalities

If you notice any visual abnormalities, before or during transfusion (without the patient having a reaction) it is important you refer to the instructions for recalling components.

1. Take blood cultures as soon as possible 

Take blood cultures from the patient before giving additional antibiotics.

2. Ring Hospitals Services 

Ask for the name and telephone number of the duty consultant.

3. Talk with the duty consultant 

  • If you have the results of the patient's blood cultures, advise the duty consultant (if not, forward details to them and/or MSL – Bacteriology when you have them)
  • The duty consultant completes a Record of Medical Consultation form, with details of the event and appropriate actions agreed 
  • Please note, other components may be implicated and need recalling. The recall will be managed by the Duty Consultant and the NHSBT Hospital Services department

4. Ring Hospital Services and ask for a cool box

Ask for one to be delivered on your hospital's next routine delivery.

5. Return the implicated pack(s) to Hospital Services as soon as possible after the event

  • Adequately seal with the appropriate pack closure to prevent leakage and contamination
  • It is preferable to leave the giving set in place to minimise the risk of introducing contamination; seal the line at the end to prevent leakage during transit
  • If the giving set is removed, seal the open port with a spigot
  • Suitably bag the pack, and any attachments, before placing in the cool box for returning to Hospital Services

Hospital Services then forward to MSL – Bacteriology, for investigation.

Components should be stored and transported at 4°C where possible

We do not recommend hospitals investigate before sending on to MSL - Bacteriology

If clinically indicated, your hospital's microbiology laboratory staff may investigate the pack the before sending onto MSL - Bacteriology, which we don't recommend because it may compromise the investigation results.

However, if your policies require your microbiology department to culture the component before you return it to us, we ask you to use a Class II Microbiological Safety Cabinet, if possible, and insert a sterile coupler spike into the port in which the giving set was attached, or an unopened port on the pack. The latter is our preferred option; if you need advice on suitable coupler spikes for sterile sampling of the unit, contact MSL - Bacteriology. 


MSL - Bacteriology
0208 957 2959 / 2962, ask to speak to a senior member of staff