Coronavirus information and guidance

Research involving the NHS

The University encourages researchers to consider undertaking research involving the NHS.

General guidance on obtaining NHS ethical approval

Approvals must be obtained first and then ratified by a School ethics committee. Get in contact with researchgovernance@st-andrews.ac.uk to check whether you will need any NHS approvals and, if so, which approvals you will need and how to obtain them. Get in contact as early as possible as acquiring NHS approvals may take months. When applying for NHS ethical approval, researchers are still required to use the University's template documents.

Research involving the NHS and Covid-19

Research involving in-person face-to-face contact within the NHS, or which used key NHS resources, was initially restricted to only research required for patient safety or directly related to Covid-19. This restriction has now been lifted. However, while research involving the NHS is beginning to resume, NHS resources continue to be under pressure and there are issues to consider around risk, safety and ethics.

At the University level, restrictions on research involving in-person face-to-face contact with human participants have also been eased. This type of research may now begin or restart, but only if it is carefully planned and considered. This is covered in more detail on the interim guidance for research involving humans webpage but to summarise, research involving in-person face-to-face contact must satisfy three conditions:

  • It must be permissible (so complies with applicable University, local and national restrictions and in the case of the NHS, any NHS board requirements, capacity limitations or restrictions).
  • It must be safe (determined through the risk assessment processes for travel and fieldwork or use of research sites including NHS sites).
  • It must be ethical (determined through the ethical review process, to ensure the enhanced ethical issues that are a result of the circumstances and increased safety risks are addressed).

We are still in the midst of a pandemic and this means there are substantial considerations in regard to participant and researcher safety, and the ethics of conducting research at such a time. Due to this, research using online and remote methods is still strongly encouraged where at all possible.

What this means in practice for new and restarting research involving the NHS that is Sponsored by the University

Your first step should always be to get in contact with the Sponsor by emailing researchgovernance@st-andrews.ac.uk but the information here will give you an idea of what to expect and what we will ask you to do. 

The NIHR Restart Framework is being used within the NHS to guide the restarting of research and is supported by the CSO. Take some time to review this - you may notice that there are parallels between the framework and the University’s interim guidance on in-person face-to-face research involving humans.

By mapping the University’s guidance onto the NIHR Framework, (and through communications as Sponsor with local NHS Research and Development (R&D) offices), we have translated what these mean in practice for Chief Investigators (CIs) who wish to start or restart NHS research.

This guidance is most relevant to CIs conducting research that involves in-person face-to-face contact with participants or in-person visits to access NHS sites, resources or equipment. If your study does not involve these but it was paused due to COVID-19, or if you are moving to or restarting research using online or remote methods, contact researchgovernance@st-andrews.ac.uk to discuss.