Intended for healthcare professionals


Research governance: Research governance approval is putting people off research

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 26 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:238
  1. Niall Galbraith, research fellow (n.d.galbraith{at},
  2. Carol Hawley, principal research fellow,
  3. Valerie De-Souza, research fellow
  1. Division of Health in the Community, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL

    Editor—The BMJ has highlighted the bureaucratic burden placed on health researchers by the research governance approval process. 1 2 Our own study sought only to interview health professionals in 12 trusts about giving advice, with a few patient telephone interviews, but the process of seeking approval from one research and development consortium delayed our project by 11 weeks.

    If this sort of approval process does not put researchers off, then the procedure for gaining honorary contracts surely will. These contracts are apparently a necessary requirement for everyone conducting research in the NHS—even NHS staff if they are collecting data from NHS trusts other than the one that employs them. Unbelievably, even when one of us already held an NHS honorary contract with one trust, another honorary contract had to be issued by the same trust (with accompanying delays) because the previous one was linked to a different project.

    Many trusts also require an occupational health check and proof of immunisation to various diseases—even for researchers who will have no contact with patients. This further administrative hurdle can take months to overcome, but it is not the last.

    Many trusts now insist that honorary contracts are accompanied by a Criminal Records Bureau check, which can take several months. We protested that these checks aimed to protect vulnerable adults were unnecessary. But, astonishingly, even our simple interviews with health professionals were forbidden until after the checks and honorary contracts were issued—another two month delay. To make matters worse, one research and development department failed to initiate the process for at least two weeks and only realised its mistake after yet another inquiring phone call from us. Eventually, after even more protesting emails and phone calls (including one from our government funders, who were incredulous at the delay), we were given the go-ahead to speak to health professionals, without needing honorary contracts—but not before research governance approval had been formally agreed.

    The research governance approval system should be revised before more health researchers change careers.


    • Competing interests None declared.


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