NHS Research Governance HR arrangements & Research Passports

Research is an integral part of NHS activity, and is often undertaken in partnership with HEIs and others.

As a result of the partnership arrangements that characterise research, this activity raises a number of HR management issues for NHS organisations about responsibility, accountability, patient safety and duty of care.

The UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research  https://www.hra.nhs.uk/media/documents/Final_Accessibility_uk-policy-framework-health-social-care-research_.pdf require all parties undertaking research within the NHS to be clear about responsibilities and liabilities. One of the ways this is achieved is through using HR procedures appropriately.  The Framework makes it clear that appropriate allocation of responsibility, and hence a clear understanding of liability, is fundamental to good overall governance of research. It helps everyone work together to manage risks, so that the research can go ahead safely, even in difficult settings.

Individuals who require NHS Research Governance arrangements to be put in place may need to facilitate these via:

  • A Research Passport (see below)


  • An NHS to NHS letter of access. (Clinicians who hold an existing NHS or honorary NHS contract are only covered to undertake research at their normal place of work. Clinicians needing to undertake research at other NHS sites or with patients or identifiable data/tissues/materials from other sites  will require NHS to NHS access arrangements) – University employed clinicians should contact clsresgov@le.ac.uk if this is required

The HR Good Practice Resource Pack clarifies the areas of responsibility, and hence liability, of NHS organisations and HEIs in relation to researchers  https://www.myresearchproject.org.uk/help/hlphrgoodpractice.aspx#HR-Good-Practice-Resource-Pack.

What is a Research Passport?

The NHS Research Passport is a mechanism for obtaining permission to undertake research in an NHS organisation by means of an honorary research contract or a letter of access.

The Research Passport itself is a package of documents completed by the researcher with their substantive employer and then validated by the appropriate NHS Research and Development Office to obtain permission to undertake the research; it is not the permission per se. It lists the pre-engagement checks the substantive employer has carried out and can be used to provide evidence of these checks to any NHS organisation named on the Research Passport for the duration of the passport.

Research passports are issued for a maximum period of three years, upon expiry a new Research Passport application must be made. They may either be project-specific, or for researchers with an ongoing research portfolio allow the researcher to carry out a number of different projects over the course of three years. Where research activity lasts for more than three years, it is necessary to make an application for a new Research Passport when the old one has expired and at this time further checks, such as a new DBS check, may be required.

Do you require a research passport?

University staff

Researchers who have no contractual relationship with the NHS may need a research passport, but not all types of research activity require a research passport; this may include General Practitioners employed by the University to undertake research.

Departments should consider if the duties of the role fall under the NHS Research Governance framework. This may be with respect to a new appointment, or a current employee whose duties are changing. If this is the case Departments must complete an NHS assessment of work form.

If the completed assessment form indicates that arrangements are required departments should upload this to Eploy for a new vacancy, or forward it to the Assistant Registrar (Resources) (clsresgov@le.ac.uk) with a copy of the job summary form and the appropriate RSA form for contractual changes eg move to new project, contract extension etc according to the University guidance on employing staff on projects.

The documentation will then be checked for consistency and recording. When approved the vacancy will be signed off by the Assistant Registrar via Eploy to notify the Research Support Office, the Department and HR. Where the request relates to an existing post holder the Assistant Registrar will review and action via emails to the individual, Department and Research Office as required.

Postgraduate students

Doctoral students undertaking research for a higher degree, which is not part of a healthcare placement, may require a Research Passport dependent upon the duties being undertaken.

If this is the case student must complete an NHS assessment of work form and send it to Head of Student Programmes, David Parker (dkp7@le.ac.uk) who will be able to verify your requirement for a research passport.


Letters of access and Honorary contracts issued against a Research Passport are only awarded for the duration of an individuals contract with the University.  Those who hold fixed term contracts of less than 3 years will need to seek extensions to their arrangements by completing an Appendix form and adding it to their fully signed Research Passport with their contract extension confirmation and forwarding to the required NHS Trust.  Other changes to the Research Passport can also be facilitated in this way.

For further information

Visit our website (www.le.ac.uk/research-passport) or email clsresgov@le.ac.uk.

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