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Our response to concerns raised about research proposed by the Cass Review

Last updated on 19 Aug 2022

Earlier this month, a number of organisations wrote to us to raise concerns about a research study that we are preparing to review. You can read the open letter on the Mermaids website. The proposed study is part of the research stream of the Cass Review, an independent review of gender identity services for children and young people. This is is our response to that letter.

Thank you for the letter that you sent us on 3 August 2022 with concerns about the application ‘Outcomes for children referred to Gender Identity Development Service’ and issues that those who signed the letter think should be explored during review of the proposed study.

Applications like this one need review by the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) and a Research Ethics Committee (REC), both of which are independent bodies, before any research can go ahead. Both CAG and REC members are volunteers, and the committees that review applications are made up of a mixture of lay and expert members.

We are handling your letter as a complaint and whilst the HRA has an established process for managing third party concerns that are raised post review, your request has highlighted that we do not have an agreed process for managing concerns and considerations submitted prior to REC or CAG review.

When deciding how to handle your request we have tried to remain as close as possible to our regular process, where an application is considered in the absence of information from third parties, whilst also ensuring that the information that you have provided is given due consideration. Going forward, we will formalise a process for handling third party concerns raised ahead of REC and/or CAG review, taking account of a range of stakeholder views.

We have shared a copy of your letter with the Chair of the REC and the Chair of the CAG. We will tell the members of the REC and CAG in advance of the meeting that we have had a letter that raises concerns and requests that particular points are considered during the review, but will not share the content with the committee members ahead of their review. This will allow REC and CAG members to initially review the application in the usual way, based on the merits of the submitted application documents.

It’s possible that many or all of the points in the letter may be addressed in the initial review process in response to the application, but once the initial review has taken place, any of your concerns which have not already been considered will be highlighted by the Chair for further discussion. This will ensure that once the initial review has taken place, the Committee has the opportunity to consider any of the outstanding issues that you have raised, and where appropriate to raise these with the applicant as concerns raised by the public, before reaching their final decision.

We hope that you find this information helpful. We will contact you again shortly after the REC and CAG have met to consider the application.

We will also let the researcher know about the process that we intend to follow in relation to your letter.

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