Earlier in the week a new framework setting out 19 principles of good practice in the management and conduct of health and social care research in the UK was launched. Published by the Health Research Authority and the health departments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales the framework provides a single set of principles for the whole of the UK. It can be downloaded here

The purpose of the framework

The framework is relevant to individuals and organisations with responsibility for the management and conduct of research. If this is you then I would suggest that you really need to download it and read it!

The principles comprising the framework apply to the management and conduct of research taking into account legal requirements and other standards. They have been developed to protect and promote the interests of patients, service users and the public and describe the ethical conduct and proportionate, assurance-based management of research.

It is stated that the framework sets out largely what is (or should be) already happening and so there should be no major changes as a result of its publication. However, a statement that will, no doubt, be music to the ears of researchers – ‘the intention is to remove unnecessary bureaucracy for researchers both in what the framework expects of them directly and what it expects of others that then affects them.’ 

Context

For anyone looking to evidence their case for developing a culture of research within their team or organisation the introduction to the framework sets out very clear statements of commitment to research from Health Research Authority (HRA) and UK Health Departments. To highlight a two:

  • Research is a core function on health and social care. It is essential for our health and well-being and for the care we receive. 
  • Commissioners and providers of health and social care appreciate how health and social care research benefits patients, service users, staff and the public, and make their resources available for research.

The principles.

I do not intend to go through each of the principles in detail because they are short, succinct and easily accessible but, to give you some insight here are the topics:

  1. Safety
  2. Competence
  3. Scientific and ethical conduct
  4. Patient, strive user and public involvement
  5. Integrity, quality and transparency
  6. Protocol
  7. Legality
  8. Benefits and risks
  9. Approval
  10. Information about research
  11. Accessible findings
  12. Choice
  13. Insurance & indemnity
  14. Respect for privacy
  15. Compliance
  16. Justified intervention
  17. Ongoing provision of treatment
  18. Integrity of the care record
  19. Duty of care.

The other thing which is really helpful is that the framework sets out very clearly responsibilities and accountabilities at the levels of individuals and organisations including:

  • Chief investigators
  • Research teams
  • Funders
  • Sponsors
  • Contract research organisations
  • Research sites
  • Regulators of professions
  • Other regulators
  • Employers
  • Health and social care providers

I hope you will see from the above how important it is for anyone involved in health and social care research to read this document. It is not a massive tome that you have to wade through, the main substance of the framework is presented in 24 clearly written accessible pages.