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A festive message from Matt Westmore, Chief Executive

Last updated on 19 Dec 2022

Many of us will be having a smaller, simpler festive season this year. But the holidays and the start of another new year, however we mark them, are also a chance for us to pause and to reflect on what really matters. As we mark the end of our 10th year, this is also something we’ve been doing at the HRA. Here’s just a taste of what we’ve been up to.

In June we launched our new strategy, making it easy to do research that people can trust, with our double commitment to include you in research and to accelerate the review of studies, so that research findings improve care faster.

You helped us to develop the strategy, to launch it and to agree the change we’d like to see as a result. And our work together isn’t over yet as, for the first time, we involve the HRA Community in the process we go through at this time every year to make decisions about what we will do next to deliver our strategy.

Since January 2022, in over 1000 committee meetings our dedicated volunteers have reviewed more than 3000 research studies involving NHS patients their tissue or their data. The most urgent, including mpox research set up quickly to learn how to limit the spread of the virus, were reviewed in just a few days as part of our commitment to fast-track urgent public health studies. And as we approach the first anniversary of combined review, the average time taken to review clinical trials of new medicines this year was only 36 days, half what it would have been five years ago, making the UK a great place to do research that people can trust.

The Confidentiality Advisory Group, which provides independent expert advice on the use of confidential patient information, has reviewed more than 100 studies this year. We’ve made it easier for those who are applying to both CAG and REC by coordinating the reviews that these studies need. And as part of our commitment to always make it possible to do new types of research here in the UK, so that we can get better, quicker answers and put people first, we’ve worked with others across the research sector on a new advisory service for those using data and AI approaches. This is now in final testing and will be available to all in 2023.

In March we launched the shared commitment to public involvement, a pledge from organisations involved in health and social care research that public involvement is always important, expected and possible. Nine months on there are now 16 organisations involved, working together to increase meaningful involvement in research.

And throughout 2022, members of the HRA’s Public Involvement Network have contributed 234 days of their time to support 15 different HRA projects and pieces of work, from our Annual Report to our Make it Public research transparency planning. Our strategy commits to increase public involvement in how we make decisions, and make sure that anyone who wants to can get involved, and we’ve made phenomenal progress this year.

Elsewhere, you told us how we could make ethics review more streamlined and proportionate. Our public conversation, which involved workshops and surveys, made recommendations that we’re working on right now. And there’s still a chance for you to tell us how the HRA and others can help make sure that research always puts people first. We know we’re a stronger organisation when we listen to and involve a diverse range of people in our work.

More than eight out of ten applicants tell us that they’re pleased with the service that they get from the HRA, and this of course pleases us because we want the UK to be the easiest place in the world to do research that people can trust, making us a destination to do more great research that can improve care.

At the same time, we’re always looking for ways to do things better. We’re supporting our people to make changes that reduce their carbon usage and waste, though with so much good news to share from 2022, we stopped short of recycling last year’s Christmas message.

All that remains for me to say is thank you for being part of our work in 2022. Whether you were a research participant, part of the HRA Community, someone who worked for or with the HRA, or you do high quality health and social care research today which will improve everyone’s health and wellbeing tomorrow, we’re delighted you were part of this milestone year.

Wishing you a peaceful break this December. See you next year!

A headshot of Dr Matt Westmore

Matt Westmore, Chief Executive

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