The range of independent advice and expertise available to the Health Research Authority has been broadened with the expansion in March of the HRA’s national panel of experts.
For a number of years the National Research Ethics Advisors’ Panel has provided independent, multidisciplinary expert opinion on a range of ethical issues that help research ethics committees deliver robust, consistent and fair decisions.
With the expansion of the remit and statutory functions of the HRA, the panel of eight ethicists has been expanded to a group of nearly 50 people with expertise in a number of specialist areas such as paediatric research, social care research, mental capacity, consent and research governance.
A subtle but important change to the name of the panel, to the National Research and Ethics Advisors’ Panel, alongside a new way of operating means that the HRA will be able to receive more timely and tailored input to the broad range of activities the panel will be involved in.
Panellists at the NREAP event in London in February (L-R): Professor Tjeerd Van Staa, Manchester University; Professor Jonathan Montgomery, HRA Chair; Professor Andrew George, outgoing NREAP chair; Professor Søren Holm, Manchester University; and Dr Phil Quinlan, Nottingham University.
Joint Head of Policy at the HRA Amanda Hunn said “we have benefitted from NREAP advice on some of the tricky ethical issues our Research Ethics Committees face, such as incentives and payments for taking part in research, sham surgery and issues around consent.
“Rather than meeting quarterly, our new expanded panel will be providing their input in a more tailored way that best fits the nature of the topic and the kind of analysis and response we require.
“The new NREAP has already been set to work helping us to respond to proposals for new EU data protection regulations – just one of the many and varied topics we expect to be challenging them with in the future.”
At an event in London in February, HRA Chair Professor Jonathan Montgomery thanked members of the previous NREAP panel, many of whom have joined the new group, and paid tribute to its chair, Professor Andrew George, who stepped down from the role when the panel reformed.
“Andrew has been for many years a critical but close and supportive friend of the HRA and his wise and honest counsel has been of great value to us.”
NREAP members are appointed for three, four or five year terms to ensure continuity of membership. Individuals from the panel may be co-opted to form specific working groups, as and when the HRA requires.
Additional individuals can be invited to join the workgroups, provide assistance or supply information as required. The panel will not normally be required to meet as a full group either in person or virtually.