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COVID-19 research

COVID-19 is one the biggest ever public health challenges, and research has a key role to play in the fight against it.

The spread of COVID-19 is one the biggest public health challenges we have faced, and research has a key role to play in the fight against it. Research is helping us to develop diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines and to prevent and manage the spread of the virus.

To ensure COVID-19 research can start as quickly as possible, the Health Research Authority and the devolved administrations are using a fast-track process to review new studies and amendments to existing studies, often within a few days of application. We are also publishing information about approved studies on our website within days of approval.

How to apply for fast-track approval

Our fast-track approval process provides dedicated support to researchers to enable their study to be swiftly reviewed by a Research Ethics Committee and approvals specialists. 

To request fast-track approval, please contact fast.track@hra.nhs.uk

The process is managed via the Director of the Approvals Service, and research leads in the devolved administrations if appropriate. More detail about the process can be found in our guidance about applying for fast track review

How to amend an existing study

The fast-track review service applies also to amendments to existing studies. To understand how and when to amend an existing study, either to incorporate COVID-19 or because of the impact of the virus, read our guidance for sponsors, sites and researchers

Seeking consent

We have summarised how existing requirements for providing information to research participants and recording consent apply in COVID-19 research. For more information, read our guidance on seeking consent in COVID-19 research.

Using patient data

Ordinarily, applications are made for support from the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) where confidential patient information is to be processed without consent for research and non-research activities. A temporary arrangement has been made for COVID-19 studies going through the fast-track review process, in which support from CAG is not required. However, CAG is providing advice as part of the fast-track process. For more information about this process, read our guidance for using patient data.   

See all approved studies

It is vital that the research community and wider public is able to see information about ongoing research and its findings. 

We also have a fast-track transparency process, in which information about each approved COVID-19 study is published on our website within days of approval. See the approved research studies section for more information.

How we are working during the pandemic

We are focusing our time on COVID-19 studies. Applications for all other types of research are being accepted for review but are likely to be delayed. The only exception is applications for review of undergraduate and master’s level research, which are suspended until further notice.