UK health research regulation to boost patient involvement

4 December 2011

The UK government has launched the new Health Research Authority (HRA), charged with protecting and promoting the interests of patients and the public in health research.
The HRA has been formed under government plans to streamline health research regulation. It is intended that the HRA will ‘co-operate with others to combine and streamline the current approval system and promote consistent, proportionate standards for compliance and inspection’. The National Research Ethics Service forms a core component of the new authority.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said that the HRA would “provide the continuity and stability of the national research ethics system but will simplify the way regulations governing research are used whilst ensuring the safety of patients and the public is paramount”, as well as enabling more patients to participate in research.

Comment: In the current format, this new body fulfils some but not all of the purposes proposed by the Academy of Medical Sciences in calls for a ‘super-regulator’ of research (see previous news). However, whilst currently a Special Health Authority, the intention is to make the HRA a Non Departmental Public Body, enabling it to assume additional functions; it has been proposed that these could include research regulation activities currently overseen by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (see previous news). 

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