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The Role of RECs

The Role of NHS Research Ethics Committees (RECs)

NHS RECs safeguard the rights, safety, dignity and well-being of people participating in research in the National Health Service. They review applications for research and give an opinion about the proposed participant involvement and whether the research is ethical.

NHS RECs are entirely independent of research sponsors (that is, the organisations funding and hosting the research) and investigators. This enables them to put participants at the centre of their research. Each year, NHS RECs review around 6,000 research applications. On average, they give an opinion in less than 30 days: well within the maximum allowance of 60 days. Proportionate Review studies are reviewed within a maximum of 14 days.

REC Membership

Each Research Ethics Committee (REC) consists of between seven and 18 volunteer members. At least one-third of the members must be ‘lay’. Lay members are people whose main personal or professional interest is not in a medical research area. The remainder of the committee are expert members, who are specialists including doctors, other healthcare professionals and academics.

Membership also includes a category known as ‘lay plus’. This category excludes anyone who has been involved in clinical research other than as a participant. REC members often have the sort of experience which will be useful in scrutinising the ethical aspects of a research proposal. For example, they might be patients, members of the public, nurses, GPs, hospital doctors, statisticians, pharmacists and academics, as well as people with specific ethical expertise gained through a legal, philosophical or theological background.

Interested in becoming a member of an NHS REC?

Please get in touch with us and we can send you further details and let you know of any local vacancies available. All NHS RECs are established by the UK Health Departments for the purpose of reviewing applications within the Governance Arrangement for Research Ethics Committees (GAfREC).

In addition, some of these RECs are also recognised for the purpose of reviewing clinical trials of investigational medicinal products (CTIMPs). Only RECs with this recognition may review CTIMP applications