Hundreds of hospitals could be using unproven medical bags, according to research

Up to 30 per cent of UK hospitals could be transporting diagnostic specimens in medical bags that may not stand up to international guidelines, according to recent research. 

UK-based Versapak has reviewed market data which suggests that many hospitals may not be using bags that carry proof of compliance, either because they are unaware of the relevant guidelines, or their supplier has not provided the necessary certification to demonstrate full compliance.

Versapak worked closely in consultation with the Department for Transport (DfT) five years ago to develop a range of medical bags that would comply fully with the newly-introduced PI650 packaging instructions contained within guideline UN3373.

An awareness campaign was launched at the time but Versapak fears that many hospitals still may not be able to confirm beyond doubt whether the bags they use are compliant.

The guideline refers to ‘Category B’ substances, usually non-infectious blood and organ samples, being transported for testing, and specifies that packaging should comprise a primary receptacle, secondary packaging and outer packaging. The first two elements should be leak-proof and the overall package must be marked with the code ‘UN3373’ and be strong enough to pass a drop test of at least 1.2m.

Versapak group sales director Steve Waller said: “Before the new guidelines were introduced, there were alarming stories of diagnostic specimens being carried around in everything from cardboard boxes to toolboxes. That clearly had huge implications for hygiene and security which needed to be addressed. There were also concerns from transport and logistics professionals in the health sector about the comfort and safety of staff carrying around heavy or cumbersome vessels like that.

“What we aimed for was to design a new type of bag, which had a sufficiently robust structure and secure seals to comply with the guidelines. We made sure that our bags could survive the drop test completely unscathed and, with every order received, we provide the certification that confirms this.

“Having spoken to medical transport staff as part of our research, we were also very keen to make sure our bags were comfortable and user-friendly, so we developed a soft outer shell with carry handles.”

Versapak has supplied bags to approximately two-thirds of NHS hospitals, private hospitals and clinics since launching the approved range, but is urging the remainder to make sure they have proof that their bags meet all the criteria of the UN3373 guidelines.

“Take-up of the compliant Versapak bags has been very good but we’re mindful that there are a large number of hospitals that haven’t yet placed orders with us. We simply want to help ensure they feel comfortable that the particular bags they are using are in line with the UN3373 guidelines.”

Versapak supplies a wide range of compliant products to hospitals including secure and tamper-evident bags for blood, vaccines, specimens, pathology samples, X-rays and medical records.

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