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Revised Governance Arrangements for Research Ethics Committees (GAfREC) published

The Health Research Authority and the UK health departments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have today published revised Governance Arrangements for Research Ethics Committees. 

Health and social care research can sometimes involve an element of risk, but it’s essential that this doesn’t compromise the dignity, rights, safety and well-being of the people who take part. To make sure that this is the case, Research Ethics Committees scrutinise research proposals before approving them to go ahead.

The updated policy document sets out when review by a Research Ethics Committee (REC) is required and what’s expected from committees reviewing health and social care research proposals. These governance arrangements cover the principles and standards for RECs, including their composition, management and accountability. For example, each REC should include members of the public and those with specialist knowledge of health or social care research.

The new edition of the governance arrangements, issued today, will replace the 2011 version from 17 September 2018. Changes take account of legal, policy and operational developments, as well as feedback from applicants, REC members and staff.

There is one new addition to the good practice requirements for REC review. Following public consultation by the Human Tissue Authority, research involving human DNA extracted from acellular material, which previously did not require REC review, is now included for the first time.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of R&D, HSC Northern Ireland said:

“This updated document reflects the ongoing collaborative work of the four UK nations, and the Office of Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland continues to operate an effective and efficient ethics service in partnership across the UK.”

Dr Janet Messer, Director of the Approvals Service at the Health Research Authority said:

"The UK research ethics service is recognised internationally for the quality of its systems and procedures. This updated framework ensures that the standards that our committees work to continue to be up to date and fit for purpose. We hope this will give confidence to researchers, participants and the public about the role our Research Ethics Committees play in protecting participants in health and care research, and facilitating quality research that improves health and social care."  

The existing standards apply until 17 September 2018 to allow organisations to make any necessary changes. 

To download the revised guidance click here.