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Research governance

We receive regular requests for access to students, trainees, staff or information for research purposes. On occasion, our local and national teams are invited to be partners in research bids or related activity. To establish some consistency in how we respond to such requests and to provide some coordination of research and evaluation across HEE, we have established a Research Governance Group to review and advise on applications.

More information about the group, including how to submit an application, dates and deadlines for future meetings can be downloaded from the related documents section of this page. Completed applications should be emailed to ri@hee.nhs.uk for consideration by the group.

A significant challenge for any healthcare worker in the NHS when undertaking project work is to determine whether ethical approval is required or not. It does not matter whether you are undertaking interviews, questionnaires, focus groups or any other intervention, it is important to consider the ethical issues involved. The consideration of ethical issues applies to staff as well as patients involved in any project.

The boundary between research, audit, and service evaluation can be blurred. It is often the case that a project changes through its natural course and may move from being a service evaluation (for which formal ethical approval is not required) to research (where ethical considerations and formal approval become far more important).

A very useful tool for determining if your project is research, audit, or service evaluation can be found from the link http://www.hra-decisiontools.org.uk/research/. If your project is deemed to be research by the HRA then the following tool helps to clarify whether formal ethical approval (by a properly constituted committee) is required or not http://www.hra-decisiontools.org.uk/ethics/.

For more general information about health research ethics please refer to the NHS Health Research Authority website. Other sources of useful advice include the Conference on Public Ethics (COPE). and British Education Research Association.

Finally, before taking any steps towards implementing a project, it is critical that you discuss the ethical issues with your educational/project supervisor. See guidance for HEE fellows in related documents 


HEE working across South London has worked in partnership with Kings College London to produce an evaluation practice toolkit – a tool to help healthcare education projects evaluate themselves rigorously in order to continuously improve. The toolkit was co-developed with a wide range of stakeholders across south London, including universities, healthcare colleagues and HEE staff, all of whom provided input at all stages from design through to implementation.

The toolkit was formally launched in February 2018, and although initially developed for use in south London, it is already being used more widely. Two further toolkits are also in the pipeline, one on data collection and analysis and another on reporting and disseminating findings. View the toolkit.

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