Nucleic acid amplification technique (NAT)-based assays are replacing traditional diagnostic methods in clinical laboratories. However, many of these assays are developed in-house and the lack of standardised reference materials has hindered assay implementation and control. Consequently, in the UK, the Clinical Virology Network (CVN), the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), and the Health Protection Agency (HPA), are working in collaboration to develop working standards or 'run controls' for diagnostic NAT-based assays, particularly real-time PCR. These run controls are intended for use in microbiology laboratories and are designed to be extracted and amplified in the same way as clinical samples and included in each assay run. The aim is to enable clinical laboratories to continuously monitor the performance of their diagnostic NAT assays on a run-by-run basis allowing inter-laboratory comparisons, and ultimately improving the consistency of results. At present, eight candidate run controls representing clinically relevant viral targets have been prepared for evaluation by CVN laboratories. Data have been returned on the performance of each run control in routine diagnostic assays. Preliminary results presented here indicate a high level of variability in intra- and inter-assay detection of these targets, highlighting the need for standardisation of assays within molecular diagnostics.