You said, we did: learning from the experiences of the HRA community

Last updated on 11 Jan 2024

In 2021 and 2022, we surveyed the people who support our work to learn about their experience of working with the HRA. The survey was shared with people who:

  • are members of a Research Ethics Committee (REC)
  • are members of the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG)
  • inform and influence the HRA’s work by taking part in public involvement activities

The surveys help us better understand the level of support you receive from us and how satisfied you are more generally. This information, as well as the feedback we receive from you through our other discussions with you, is used to make plans around what we should continue to do and how we need to improve.

The results of both surveys were discussed with the Community Insight Group at the time and used to create an action plan.

What did we learn from the surveys and what have we done differently?

In 2022, 76% of REC members said they were satisfied with their experience of working with us. In the same year, the experience of working with the HRA was generally positive. It was also great to see that 76% of REC members said that they would recommend working with the HRA to others. We would like to maintain and improve this.

We have used the results of the surveys to inform our work. We also engage continuously throughout the year with our REC members and REC Chairs. This helps us discuss issues of interest and consider what we need to do in order to respond to the feedback we receive. We held seven REC Development Days in 2023, providing the opportunity for RECs to meet in person and spend time together – this was something some of our REC members told us is important to them. In addition, we continue to support the annual networking event, which facilitates building strong working relationships, providing a contribution towards a meal of £25 per person. We also hold Chairs’ meetings twice a year, which provides us the opportunity to engage with our Chairs and Vice-Chairs to discuss any issues important to them and their members.

Feeling valued

In 2022, 88% of REC members felt that their work made a difference. However, only 66% of respondents from RECs felt valued.

This was further discussed as part of the community insight group meetings. The discussion with the group (which includes REC members) highlighted that there is a wide range of factors that contribute to making people feel valued. We have also had discussions at each of our REC development days in 2023 asking how we can retain more members and make you feel valued. This feedback is critical and is helping us shape some proposals for how we can show our appreciation in a meaningful way to our REC members. We hope to work on some of these ideas in 2024 and your responses to the community survey is essential in helping us develop this further.

Support and training

In the 2021 survey, 79% of people across all groups knew where to access the information needed to carry out their role. 82% of people across all groups felt able to talk to the HRA staff supporting them.

We continue to check with you what training is important to you. In our REC development days in 2023, we were able to include AI in our programme, in response to a request for this from previous events. We have also launched a Chair’s workbook and an Introduction to Ethics workbook for Ethics Committee Members. We are currently checking what other training is important to you and the survey includes questions on this, which will allow us to plan our training programme for 2024/25.


In the 2022 survey, some REC members mentioned workload as a concern. We know from our discussions with you that this continues to be an area that we need to improve on. So far, based on the feedback, we have:

  • introduced seasonal RECs to meet demand during busy times, which has worked really well
  • improved our recruitment process to appoint new members more quickly. We currently have the highest number of members across the service for some time, with our vacancy rate falling from 20% last year to 5% currently
  • collaborated with you to implement the quality standards and review principles, which many of you have told us has helped focus the ethics review of participant information

We know we have more to do in order to ensure volunteering as a REC member is manageable. We continue to think of ways to balance how much commitment and time is involved for you and we will continue to discuss with you potential ideas to improve this further.


In 2021, 61% of respondents agreed that the HRA is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive organisation. Across all three groups, the demographic data collected in 2022 showed that, of those who responded, 61% are female, 87% white and 75% are over 55. We want to make working with the HRA more inclusive, as well as being more visible to people whose perspectives and experiences may not be shaping our work at the moment. Some progress we’ve made in this area includes:

  • the Community Committee has given feedback on a draft ‘ways of working’ document that will be published later this year. It describes what people can expect from the HRA and what we expect so everyone we engage with is treated with dignity and respect
  • we are building relationships with community organisations to exchange information on our work, looking for shared ambitions and ways we can support each other. We have requested more money and time to focus on this f to make sure we can build respectful and sustainable relationships

What next?

The next 2024 HRA community survey is due to launch at the end of January 2024. It’s currently being developed in partnership with members of our Community Committee. You will receive an email directly with the survey link.

We look forward to seeing if and how the changes we have put in place make any difference to people’s experience of being involved with us, and to gaining a better understanding of where we still need to improve. We will once again look at the results in depth, with members of our Community Committee, to create an action plan of steps we will take on the back of the results. We will also communicate with all of you what we are planning to do and continue to seek your feedback through the year.

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