HRA Approval

This section contains links to updates on HRA Approval:

What is HRA Approval?

HRA Approval is the new approval that will be required for research to commence in the NHS in England. It is a new process that comprises a review by a Research Ethics Committee as well as an assessment of regulatory compliance and related matters undertaken by dedicated HRA staff. Although HRA Approval will include a study-wide review in line with the UK-wide agreed standards, the assessment will go beyond this to include new standards and assurances for example, assessment will include the coordination of clinical support assurances for pharmacy and radiation.

When HRA Approval is fully rolled out, it will remove the need for NHS permission to be issued by each participating organisation and will replace the local R&D approval process. HRA Approval will support and complement local processes relating to assessing, arranging and confirming local capacity and capability to undertake the study. When HRA Approval is in place and local capacity and capability confirmed, sites will be able to confirm with the sponsor their readiness to recruit and the study will start at the site.

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What difference will it make to health research?

The new system will simplify the approvals process for research, making it easier for research studies to be set up. The elimination of duplicate application routes means that the answers to research questions about how to improve patient care or about new treatments will be answered quicker. Patients will benefit from research funding being dedicated to delivery of research rather than being wasted in navigating complex systems. By removing duplication of reviews of research by NHS support teams, the NHS will be freed up to focus on delivering research.

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When will it happen?

The phased roll out of HRA Approval started on 11 May 2015 for NHS staff research that does not require review by an NHS Research Ethics Committee. From 10 August 2015, studies taking place in primary care independent contractor settings only will also be eligible for HRA Approval.

HRA Approval is the new approval that will be required for research to commence in the NHS in England. It is a new process that comprises a review by a Research Ethics Committee (where applicable) as well as an assessment of regulatory compliance and related matters undertaken by dedicated HRA staff.

The HRA will closely monitor studies going through the initial phases of HRA Approval roll out and will further develop processes as part of learning from and building on experience. Each roll out will build on the previous one. There will be changes to IRAS to accommodate future roll outs. The timing of the next roll out phase will be announced once the HRA has reviewed the implementation of the first two phases.

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What’s new?

  • Illustrative examples of HRA Approval documentation
    NEW: We have created some illustrative documentation for fictional studies granted HRA Approval to support organisations preparing for HRA Approval. Example documents include: HRA Initial Assessment Complete letter, HRA Approval letter, Template Statement of Activities for different site types.
  • Live consultation and calls for comment
    NEW: we have an open call for studies that will fall into the study type for Cohort 1 of HRA Approval. The purpose of the call is to identify studies that we can shadow through the process before we go live for HRA Approval and to identify studies which will be among the first to apply for HRA Approval so that we can support those studies well. More information can be found here (PDF)

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Progress so far

  • After confirmation of funding for the programme at the end of March 2014, HRA began a recruitment process to establish a programme team.
  • The standards associated guidance for all parts of the assessment are well underway – but there is more work to do.
  • The development of the necessary standard operating procedures (SOPs) that HRA staff will use has begun. The HRA is working with several sponsors to identify studies which we can use as a dry run in order to test and refine our SOP
  • The pharmacy and medical exposure technical assurance elements have begun their controlled roll out
  • We have begun to recruit the operational staff for HRA Approval. A training programme for all new staff will be put in place.
  • HRA Approval will be implemented in a controlled, phased roll out approach by study type. These will be announced as the time gets nearer.

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Questions and Answers

The Q&As are constantly evolving, and we welcome questions from the research community or public about HRA Approval.

The current version of our Q&As have been segmented for ease of use.

This is our current document  please contact us if you have any questions.

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Useful Links & Documents

A range of papers, templates and presentations have been created as HRA Approval has been developed and is rolled out.  Listed below are links to some of the key documents and a brief explanation of their purpose.

  • Phases for roll-out of HRA Approval: to support key stakeholders in their planning for HRA Approval implementation, we have released a paper providing the current definition of each of the cohorts (PDF)
  • Update on HRA Approval presentation: with dialogue (slideshow hosted on YouTube)
  • HRA Summary Plans: for Assessment and Approval. Gives some context as to why we are undertaking this programme.
  • Local research support functions: following HRA Approval implementation (PDF) This paper outlines the research support functions that will not be incorporated into HRA Approval but which may be put in place locally at research sites in England to provide a supportive environment for research delivery.
  • The NHS R&D Forum Primary Care Working Group has published a companion document (PDF) which focuses on the local support functions which primary care research offices can provide.
  • Study-wide review of non-portfolio studies in England (PDF) As part of the preparation for implementation of HRA Approval, this review paper outlines our plans to test the UK study-wide criteria and assurance template with NHS organisations.
  • The Programme Initiation Document gives more details on how we will approach the development and implementation of the HRA Approval HRA Approval Programme Initiation Document (PDF)
  • The Additional Information paper explains the Programme Initiation Document in a format that is more relevant to the research community Additional information: HRA Approval PID (PDF)
  • The Benefits Realisation Plan provides details of how the benefits process will be applied to the HRA Approval programme.
  • NHS R&D Forum Resources Exchange provides examples from NHS organisations on their implementation of HRA Approval.


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