Janet Wisely is the office newbie at the NHS Health Research Authority. She’s only been the Chief Executive there for two weeks, but already she’s got to grips with the challenges and potential of the fledgling body. Speaking at the Kent and Medway Health Partnerships Research Event she outlined the fledgling body’s brief history.
The HRA took over responsibility for the ethical approval process for NHS research projects in December last year, and you can’t help feeling it’s been handed a bit of a poisoned chalice. Anyone who has tried applying for ethical approval will have their own horror stories around delays and unreasonable demands. As Janet spoke, an academic next to me was whispering and rolling his eyes.
However, Janet hopes to change all that. As well as a simplified, unified application system, she hopes to make the HRA more responsive, to provide constructive advice, and to turn around ‘95% of applications within 40 days.’
A bold ambition, and already the HRA is being more transparent in monitoring its performance towards this goal; have a look at the graphs and data that they have published on their website. As well as speed, Janet wants to adapt the system so that it is more proportionate. For example, relatively straightforward projects should go through a light touch assessment that should see them returned within two weeks. At the same time she wants to improve the quality and consistency of assessments, which she recognises as somewhat lacking in the past.
I wish her well in these ambitions, and hope that, by the time she crests the hill between newbie and old-timer, my eye-rolling neighbour will be beaming instead.