New pilot to make it easier to set up research involving health and social care staff as participants

Last updated on 31 Aug 2023

The Health Research Authority (HRA), in collaboration with the Devolved Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has launched a new pilot to improve the process for setting up research involving health and social care staff as participants.

The UK-wide pilot will reduce the number of questions that researchers need to respond to in their applications for regulatory approval for these types of studies, where NHS staff and Health and Social Care (HSC) staff in Northern Ireland are participants.

As part of the pilot, the HRA will also test a more streamlined process for assessing whether the site where the research is taking place is able to deliver the study.

This will provide a more proportionate process for research that doesn’t involve NHS and HSC patients or their carers and family members as participants.

The pilot, which has been developed jointly with NHS Research Scotland, HSC Northern Ireland, and Health Care Research Wales, aims to simplify the process for these types of studies to get regulatory approvals

This will help save researchers time and means they can start their studies quicker.

A head and shoulders image of Jonathan Fennelly Barnwell

“We believe that this will save researchers time on administrative procedures and mean that they will be able to use that time focussing on setting up and running the study.

“We are encouraging researchers who meet the criteria to take part in the pilot so that we can work with them to develop it and ensure it meets their needs.

“Good quality research is vital for the NHS, which is why we are committed to helping to make the UK an even more attractive place to conduct research.”

Jonathan Fennelly-Barnwell, Deputy Director of Approvals at the HRA.

The pilot is open to researchers conducting research limited to the involvement of NHS staff and HSC staff as participants. This includes research studies involving interviews, questionnaires and observations of NHS and HSC staff, not involving patients, their tissue or identifiable data.

Researchers who join the pilot will be asked to complete a smaller set of questions when submitting their form on the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS), which is the online platform used for processing applications.

For further information, please read our full guidance on the IRAS website.


Due to a high volume of interest, we have temporarily paused the pilot for studies from England, Scotland and Wales whilst these submissions are processed. Once they have been analysed we expect to open the pilot back up to welcome more studies from each country.

We are still actively looking for studies led from Northern Ireland.

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