Ethical review of health service research in the UK: Implications for nursing

A. M. Tod, P. Nicolson, P. Allmark

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background. This paper examines the current systems and structures for ethical review of health services research in the United Kingdom (UK). Past criticisms and the adequacy of recent governance arrangements for Ethics Committees in addressing these are discussed. The implications for nurses are then considered. Rationale. This examination of the situation is prompted by the demand for more innovative research designs in health care evaluation, new regulations and guidance, and a climate of public anxiety regarding research conduct in the UK. Findings. The evolution of Research Ethics Committees (RECs) has been slow and resulted in a lack in consistency. Criticisms made of RECs can be categorized into four main areas. New governance arrangements for RECs have emerged as potential solutions to these criticisms. This review identifies the limitations of the new governance arrangements in addressing past criticisms because of two factors. The first is insufficient funding. The second is confusion about the confidentiality and consent requirements of clinicians working in areas where research is conducted and on whom recruitment processes often rely. The current situation regarding health research ethical review has implications for nurses, whether they are working as researchers, members of Ethics Committees or clinicians where research is conducted. Conclusion. The new governance arrangements may go some way to addressing past problems. However, investment in RECs is required. It is also important to realize that maintaining ethical probity in health service research is a tripartite concern. It is reliant as it is on the actions of Ethics Committees and clinical research partners as well as those of the researchers themselves.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)379-386
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


    • Confidentiality
    • Consent
    • Governance
    • Health services
    • Nursing
    • Qualitative
    • Research ethics committees


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