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Ethical approval

Please note that information on this page relates only to research that comes within the remit of an NHS research ethics committee (REC). Non-NHS research conducted by KCL staff and students should instead be referred to the King's College London college ethics committee.

Do I need NHS Ethics review? 

Use the HRA decision tool here.

NHS research ethics committees

For research involving: 

  • Patients and users of the NHS - this includes all potential research participants recruited by virtue of the patient or user’s past or present treatment by, or use of, the NHS. It includes NHS patients treated under contracts with private sector institutions.
  • Individuals identified as potential research participants because of their status as relatives or carers of patients and users of the NHS, as defined above.
  • Access to data, organs or other bodily material of past and present NHS patients.
  • Fetal material and IVF involving NHS patients.
  • The recently dead in NHS premises.

Studies which are taking place entirely outside of the NHS may still need to apply for an ethical opinion from an NHS REC. Examples of these include:

If you are still unsure about whether your research project needs NHS Ethics review, please discuss with the R&D office or contact the HRA queries line.

Studies requiring HRA Approval, but not NHS Ethics review

  • The use of, or potential access to, NHS premises or facilities
  • NHS staff – recruited as research participants by virtue of their professional role

Ethical approval for research involving human tissue

Non-NHS studies involving human tissue may need to be approved by an NHS ethics committee, depending on the type of tissue activity involved. The KCL College Research Ethics Committees can only currently grant ethical approval for studies involving human tissue under certain circumstances.  If your research is non-NHS and involves human tissue please consult the College’s Human Tissue Act Governance Group’s website before you apply to the college ethics committee.

Guidance on what is covered by the Human Tissue Act can be found at the Human Tissue Authority and the HTA Codes of Practice and Standards

Those who already have ethical approval from the College committees for studies involving human tissue covered by the Act do not need to seek additional ethical approval from an NHS REC. However, where a modification is required to the existing approval granted that relates directly to the human tissue element of the study, approval must be sought, potentially in full, via the NHS REC process. For guidance please contact the College Ethics Committee.