Do you feel safe providing blood samples in the post-covid era?

I expect that almost all of us share the experience of periodic visits to a phlebotomist to take blood samples to check our disease state. In my treating hospital (Hemel Hempstead) haematology patients have had their own waiting room, distanced and all wearing masks, from the start of covid until at least recently. I have felt safe.
However, I recently joined the IMPROVE trial (IMPROVE Trial - Improving Covid vaccine response for people with CLL ), for which I need to go to the Kings College Hosp (KCH) London to give blood samples. At the KCH haematology patients are required to go to the general phlebotomy department, to a restricted space where when I went some 70-100 people waited in close proximity until their number was called, few if any wearing masks. Even with a mask I did not feel safe. I could reduce risk by leaving the room and periodically checking back in to monitor the queue progress, but this still felt risky.
I drew this to the attention of the KCH trial lead consultant, who apologised and told me that KCH had had a system like that at Hemel Hempstead, but this “has now been withdrawn by the Trust”. He will raise the issue and try to find a way for me to participate more safely.
For me going to KCH (participation in the trial) is optional, but I feel for the haematology patients of KCH patients who have no choice. I also wonder what the situation is in other hospitals, and would encourage anyone needing to give samples at hospitals’ like KCH and feeling unsafe to raise the issue. It does not have to be like that.

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Hi @Ben yes, I think the world has decided that Covid is not the risk it was, we have heard it on the news.
You are right to say if we feel unsafe in medical facilities it is worth raising it with them.
I have decided that I cannot change others, I can ask, but it is up to me to keep myself as safe as possible now.
Thank you for joining the IMPROVE trial.
Take lots of care and keep as safe as you can

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Luckily my Haemotology department is still doing blood tests within the department so we don’t need to go to the general blood test area (which I agree is a scary prospect, always very busy and you can have to wait quite a while ). However for regular blood tests I discovered a few months ago that they will now only allow 2 attempts in Haemotology at getting blood out , third attempt you get sent to the general blood test section of the hospital. I think this is to keep the Haemotology blood queue moving along as they only have one phlebotomist doing non PICC line blood tests. But the phlebotomist often takes at least 2 goes to get blood out of me as I have rubbish veins so it’s a bit concerning and my protestations did no good, my choice was to come back on another day (I live over an hour’s drive from the hospital) or to go to the general blood test section.

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I think my veins would completely disappear at the thought of having to go to the general blood testing area @Ben and @CaroleCW.
It sounds as if you have a scary time @CaroleCW
My rheumatology department, where I have infusion drips, shares the haematology day unit, and now does my bloods there very safely.
I feel very safe at my GP’s and they know me so well.

I went for my treatment yesterday to find that my cancer unit which is attached to main hospital have now said you don’t need to wear a mask and have left the boxes and hand sanitiser on the table if you require
I’m still shielding and it’s working well for me
I suffer with anxiety and have limited contact with anyone outside my household
I was the only one apart from the cleaner wearing a mask all the chemo nurses don’t wear masks

I sat in the waiting area and as it began to get busier the patients came in with partners no masks my anxiety got the better of me so I moved nearer to the main door
I don’t know what it is but people seem to gravitate to me and two older ladies sat opposite me no masks coughing

Typically the wrong chemo was signed for so back to pharmacy and more waiting

In the end I spoke to receptionist and said I was too anxious to stay inside and was going outside could they come and fetch me when ready

I was called in out of all the patients only 4 wearing masks nurses none
I asked to sit in the cubby area where no one could walk through where I felt safer.

I did end up in tears explaining how I felt and the nurse said she hadn’t thought that some of us would still be shielding and said she would be happy next time to wear a mask.

Next visit I will check in then go and sit in my car after asking the receptionist to ensure my consultant will be wearing a mask.

I have also emailed the head of the unit to see if they can provide as a reasonable adjustment a small separate area for those who are continuing to shield or don’t want to be around lots of people


Oh @2DB what a scary day yesterday must have been for you, I am not surprised that you felt so anxious.
Perhaps bursting into tears was just what you needed and the nurse needed to really make them understand what it was like for you.
I am glad that that nurse will wear a mask in future and that you have decided a plan for your next visit. And that you have emailed the head of the unit suggesting something positive.
I am impressed.
Keep looking after yourself

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Thanks for the info, Carole, we seem to all have different issues with the giving of our Blood for tests.

I am lucky in that I nip down to my GP a week or so before I see my consultant, and she does my bloods for me.

It is a very quick and safe procedure, and I take a copy with me to my Consultant appointment.

I do wish, we could have some overall policy on this, which extended throughout the UK. However, I suspect ‘Money’ comes into it as is usually the case.

Regards Ron.

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Agree a standard policy would definitely make sense. Unfortunately my GP and Haemotology hospital are in different NHS Trusts and the IT systems don’t talk to each other so it is just easier to get my bloods done at hospital so my consultant has the results easily available, plus I get some specialist tests done which can’t be done by the GP. Luckily I only have to get them done every 3 months at the moment as I’m in remission.

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Thanks Carole, I hope things continue well for you.

All the best

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An update
Yesterday I had an online meeting with the head nurse of the unit and she has reassured me that I can ask the nurse to wear a mask and she will ask my consultant to wear a mask as well.
They have a buzzer (like marks and Spencer) that I can take outside with me either into the garden or bench at main entrance so that I’m buzzed in

Although mask wearing was discontinued they have made adjustments

You can have one relative for first treatment then you have to be on your own

There is a mix of video calls and face to face to keep footfall low.

I can ask for a room away from others and if the cubby is free I can use that (it’s the one bed area with a chair)

She was concerned about people like me but I’m the only one that has reached out so far.

She took away that it would have been a good idea to warn in advance
On the day the trust decided to stop mask wearing by the time she had got downstairs to put signs up all the nurses had stopped wearing masks.

I felt reassured
I have my bloods done there too

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Thanks for that inspiring story 2DB. You should I think take some pride in raising the issue - it’s not always easy. Things don’t get better if we don’t raise the issues.

Kings Hospital also reacted to my raising concerns by introducing a different way to give blood samples - one-to-one with a masked nurse without waiting in a crowded space. I don’t know if that is for all haematology patients, I fear not, but at least those of us giving frequent samples for the trial are not subject to frequent visits to a crowded waiting room.


Update to my meeting and putting plans into play

I had a consultant app Wednesday (have posted in wrong place previously ) I was anxious on asking consultant to wear a mask he asks if I was ok and I said none mask wearing was making me anxious and he said do you want me to wear a mask I said if you wouldn’t mind I could tell he did mind, he went and got a mask and then continued to talk at me
about how guidelines have changed etc etc I replied they have worked for me and so has shielding so I will continue.

Treatment was Friday and I was not looking forward to asking the nurses to wear masks after the experience with my consultant and already focusing on what I would reply when they said no or guidelines have changed etc

Bless my nurse team it was no trouble at all whatever made me feel safe they would do willingly ( what a difference to be understood instead of talked at)
Treatment nurse popped a mask on as did the other nurses who came to have a chat and see how I was doing without me having to say anything.

Think I’m going to ask for a telephone consultation next time rather than put myself through being talked at again