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How to take a sample

Thank you for taking part in this important UK Biobank study. The information we collect will be used to improve understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic and to manage the outbreak.

This video has been provided by the Department of Health and Social Care and some details may therefore not be relevant to our UK Biobank study. Please read to the bottom of this page for complete instructions on how to obtain and return your blood sample for this study.

How should I prepare to take a sample?

  • Drink a lot of water (6 to 8 glasses) the day before you collect your sample, and at least 2 glasses 30 minutes before you collect your sample. This is so that you are well hydrated. We understand that it might not be possible for you to drink this much water but doing so will make it easier to provide your blood sample.
  • Set aside enough time: you will need about 30 minutes to prepare, get set up and collect your sample, especially if this is your first time.
  • Double check that the kit is addressed to you (and not another member of your household).
  • Open the kit and read all of the instructions (on both sides of the sheet) carefully.
  • Watch the short video showing you what is in the kit and how to use it before you start.
  • Lay out all of the contents of the kit on a table or surface to check that nothing is missing then set up the equipment as per the instructions. Please make sure you take the lid off the blood collection tube before you start.
  • Do some light exercise (e.g. swing your arms and clench your fist) for a minute – if safe for you to do so – to help get your blood moving.
  • Wash your hands with soap (this can be liquid or bar soap) for 20 seconds and dry them with a clean towel.
  • Put the hand from which you plan to collect the blood sample in a bowl of warm water (such as bath water temperature) for 2 minutes.
  • Stand up for the whole process, keeping your hand lower than your elbow to keep the blood flowing (but be prepared to be able to sit down if you feel faint).
  • Do not do your test, or post your test, on a Saturday - it might sit in the post too long. Any other day is fine.

What do I have to do before I post my sample back?

Please complete the following steps before posting your sample:

  1. Mix the tube by turning it upside down at least 10 times.
  2. Peel the remaining small tube label with the colourful border from the return form and wrap it around your tube. Make sure the printed QR code is clearly visible.
  3. Follow the instructions sheet on putting the tube and your used and unused lancets into the clear plastic bag.
  4. Write the date and time that you took your sample on the return form (do not write anything else on this form).
  5. Put the completed return form and plastic bag (containing your tube and lancets) into the box that your kit arrived in and close it.
  6. Put the box into the Tracked 24 pre-paid plastic mailing envelope and then post it as soon as possible.

How to obtain your blood sample

1. Prepare

1. Grab a clean tissue and a bowl of warm water.
2. Lay your kit out on a low table.
3. Check that the kit is addressed to you before starting.
4. Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds and dry with a clean towel.

2. Set up

1. Remove the cap from the tube.
2. Stand the tube upright using the slot in the top of the cardboard box.
3. Prepare the plaster so that it’s ready to pop on your finger.

3. Get blood flowing

1. Put your whole hand in a bowl of warm water (about bath water temperature) for 2 minutes. Then dry your hand with a clean tissue.
2. Do jumping jacks, or swing your arm and clench your fist for a minute (if it’s safe for you to do so) – this helps get your blood moving.
3. Stand up for the whole process (but if you feel faint, sit down - and if you live with someone, ask for their help). Your hand must be lower than your elbow to keep the blood flowing.

4. Use the lancet

1. Clean your finger with the alcohol wipe — we recommend using your ring finger on your non-dominant hand.
2. To remove the protective tip at the bottom of the lancet: twist the tip (one full turn) and then pull it all the way out.
3. Place your hand face up on a hard surface (like a table top).
4. Press the lancet down on the outer centre of your fingertip.
5. Press down firmly on the purple button until you hear a click. You can only use each lancet once.

5. Fill the tube


1. Wipe away the first drop of blood with a clean tissue.
2. Massage your hand firmly in a downward motion every 3 to 4 seconds. Start from your palm and work down your finger. But do not squeeze the piercing or it might spoil your sample.
3. If the blood stops flowing, use pressure to wipe the pricked finger to stimulate blood flow. If this does not work, and it’s been more than 2 minutes, re-warm your hand and prick another finger using a new lancet.

6. Mix the tube

1. Please try to fill the tube to the 600 line. If you only fill to the 400 line, that’s OK. Place the cap onto the tube. Push it on until it clicks.
2. Gently turn the tube upside down at least 10 times. Make sure the blood touches the sides of the tube.
3. Do not worry if the blood solidifies when it’s mixed. This is supposed to happen.
4. Apply pressure on your finger to stop the bleeding, clean with a cleansing wipe, and apply a plaster.
5. Clean up any blood spills immediately and disinfect the surrounding area.

How to return your blood sample collection kit

1. Peel your label off the return form

Peel your tube label from the bottom right of the return form. You might see that there are two labels that have been removed from the return form. Don't worry about these, as they have already been attached to your return box and pre-paid envelope.

2. Apply the tube label

Position the centre of the label on the tube and wrap the label around the tube, ensuring that the label ends are stuck securely together (as shown in the picture), and that the QR code is visible.


3. Put your tube and lancets in the bag

Get the clear plastic bag labelled 95 kPa SPECIMEN TRANSPORT BAG. Put the labelled tube and all used and unused lancets into the bag through the slot in the top of the bag — found in between the yellow sticker. 


4. Seal the bag

With the upper part of the bag flat, remove the yellow sticker and fold the flap onto the sticky backing. Seal the bag well by pressing from the centre to the outside.


5. Fill in the time and date on the return form

Fill in the time and date section on the return form with the time and date that you took your blood sample.


6. Put your sealed bag and form in the box

Put the specimen transport bag (containing your tube) and the completed return form into the cardboard box that your kit arrived in and close the box.

7. Put it in the pre-paid envelope

Put the box into the Tracked 24 pre-paid plastic mailing envelope that you were provided with and seal the envelope securely.




8. Post it to us

Post the pre-paid envelope in a priority postbox that has the NHS logo on it. Find your nearest priority postbox here. If you are not able to get to a priority postbox, please use your local postbox. Do not take the envelope to post over the counter at a post office as they are not able to accept COVID-19 related packages.


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