Scope of Services


The focus of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is to ensure that all South Africans have equitable access to laboratory diagnostic services. The NHLS has a national network of pathology laboratories throughout the country that utilise common laboratory management systems and transport networks to facilitate transport of specimens, referral of tests to reference laboratories and delivery of results.

A comprehensive diagnostic laboratory service is offered at all tiers of health service delivery. These laboratory services include consultation on the correct specimen to be collected, the management of the specimen (including its storage, transport, safety and ultimate disposal), the performing of tests on the specimen, the provision of a result and, finally, the interpretation of that result. All laboratories provide laboratory diagnostic services to the national Department of Health, provincial and district hospitals, primary healthcare clinics and other state institutions (prisons, etc).

The NHLS offers a referral diagnostic service for private sector healthcare providers for less frequently requested tests and expensive tests. Diagnostic services for environmental services such as water and food are also provided.

NHLS diagnostic laboratories are found in the teaching hospitals of university medical schools, i.e.
  • Charlotte Maxeke (Johannesburg) Hospital and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (University of the Witwatersrand)
  • Steve Biko Academic Hospital (University of Pretoria)
  • Dr George Mukhari Hospital ( University of Limpopo, MEDUNSA Campus)
  • Universitas Hospital (University of the Free State)
  • Tygerberg Hospital (University of Stellenbosch)
  • Groote Schuur Hospital and Red Cross Children's Memorial Hospital (University of Cape Town)
  • Nelson Mandela Tertiary Hospital (Walter Sisulu University)
  • Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

and in provincial and district hospitals in large metropolitan centres and remote rural areas.

The NHLS has four service branches: Central, Coastal, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern regions. Each region is headed by an Executive Regional Manager.

The regions are divided into sets of laboratories and each set is run by a Business Manager.