Advances in biochemistry have made possible new clinically useful assays of hormones, proteins, drugs and vitamins. However, many of these are often outside the scope of routine hospital laboratories because they are infrequently used, technically complex or expensive. In 1971 the Department of Health (DHSS) set up working parties to advise how these analyses could best be provided and as a result of their recommendations a number of Supra-Regional Assay Centres has been established in England and Wales. These are based on existing laboratories with expertise in the appropriate techniques and they receive financial aid from the DHSS to help them provide the expanded service. They are a ‘third tier’ in the laboratory services, complementing the assay services already available at local and regional laboratories.
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