Pathology is the study and diagnosis of disease through examination of organs, tissues, bodily fluids, and whole bodies (autopsies). The term also encompasses the related scientific study of disease processes, called general pathology.

You might be referred to the pathology department for a blood test, or other test to help with diagnose or monitor certain medical conditions.

In this section you’ll find information about:

There are a number of specialisms within pathology, you can read about these below. 


In this department patients’ blood samples are analysed to look for abnormal numbers of blood cells or abnormalities of the clotting system, in order to diagnosis conditions ranging from simple vitamin deficiencies to blood cancers such as leukaemia.


This department analyses the biochemistry of the blood and other body fluids in order to diagnose conditions such as kidney and hormonal diseases or risk factors for disease, for example a high cholesterol level


Samples from organs removed during surgical operations or other tissue biopsy samples are studied microscopically in order to diagnose disease. This department is essential to the diagnosis of both malignant and benign conditions


In this department, individual cells obtained from simple procedures such as cervical smears are studied under the microscope in order to diagnose cancerous or pre-cancerous conditions.   


This department analyses various body fluids with the aim of diagnosing infections and advising on the appropriate antibiotic treatment for patients. It also has responsibility for infection control across our hospitals. 

Patient advice sheets: for urine, faecal, sputum or vaginal patient sample collection advice please see the Patients' Guide to Taking Specimens[pdf] 42KB.

Pathology - Consent, PALS and privacy notice

Patient consent in Pathology

In order to take a patient’s blood or other bodily sample it is necessary to obtain the patient’s valid consent.

In each case, it is the responsibility of the clinician to ensure that the patient understands the reason for making the request for an examination and the range of tests that may be involved. Those reasons for investigation should be conveyed clearly to those undertaking the examination.

It is important to remember that the initial consent is likely to involve a request to investigate what is wrong, rather than to perform a specific set of analyses. Clinicians must also consider whether or not to document the consent they have obtained.

General Medical Council guidance states that discussions with patients should be tailored according to:

  • Their needs and wishes
  • Their level of knowledge about, and understanding of, their condition, prognosis and the treatment options
  • The nature of their condition
  • The complexity of the treatment, and
  • The nature and level of risk associated with the investigation or treatment.

Patients can give consent orally or in writing, or they may imply consent by complying with the proposed examination or treatment, for example, by rolling up their sleeve to have their blood sample taken.  


For patient concerns or advice please refer to our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). To make a complaint please refer to complaints.

To see how your personal information is protected please see Your information and what you should know (privacy notice).

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