HRA Approval

If your study is led from England and involves the NHS in England, you should now use HRA Approval. Before you apply for REC review, please go to the applicant guidance section of our website for information about how to apply. 


This section contains links to updates on HRA Approval:

What is HRA Approval?

HRA Approval is the new process for the NHS in England that brings together the assessment of governance and legal compliance, undertaken by dedicated HRA staff, with the independent REC opinion provided through the UK Health Departments’ Research Ethics Service.  It replaces the need for local checks of legal compliance and related matters by each participating organisation in England. This allows participating organisations to focus their resources on assessing, arranging and confirming their capacity and capability to deliver the study.

What difference will it make to health research?

The new system simplifies 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 did the change happen?

The phased roll out of HRA Approval started on 11 May 2015. The roll out was complete on 31 March 2016 and HRA Approval is now the process for applying for approvals for all project-based research in the NHS led from England.

During the phased roll out, the HRA closely monitored studies going through HRA Approval and reviewed and revised processes as part of learning from and building on experience. Each phased roll out built on the previous one. The HRA will continue to review and develop HRA Approval and feedback is encouraged to

Studies which have already applied for REC review but have not applied for R&D review, or need to add new NHS sites in England, or have new amendments, should follow the specific HRA Approval processes for these situations, so that NHS sites can work with sponsors in the new way. NIHR CSP has closed to new submissions and amendments.

HRA Approval applies only to the NHS in England. Studies with sites in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales will be supported through existing UK-wide compatibility systems, by which each country accepts the centralised assurances, as far as they apply, from national coordinating functions without unnecessary duplication.

Over the coming months, Radiation and Pharmacy Technical Assurances will be incorporated into HRA Approval as they roll out across the NHS.


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Key Resources

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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.

  • Listening to feedback– how we have responded to feedback
  • Assessing, Arranging and Confirming: Clarifications on HRA Terminology: to support NHS organisations and sponsors this document gives more information on the terminology used by the HRA for activities relating to site.
  • Local research support functions following HRA Approval implementation: 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.
  • HRA Approval in Primary Care Settings: This paper has been developed in collaboration with the NHS R&D Forum Primary Care Working Group and the NIHR CRN to provide further clarity about the set up of HRA Approval studies in primary care settings.
  • The NHS R&D Forum Primary Care Working Group has published a companion document which focuses on the local support functions which primary care research offices can provide.
  • NHS R&D Forum Resources Exchange provides examples from NHS organisations on their implementation of HRA Approval.
  • The HRA Approval portal is a web-based portal provided by the HRA so NHS organisations can see the HRA Approval status of a study that they are participating in.

You can subscribe to HRA communications here.

To keep up to date with the latest developments on the HRA Approval, please follow us on Twitter at @HRA_Latest – we will tweet every update to the HRA Approval pages.

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