Research Passports

The Research Passport and Streamlined Human Resources Arrangements

The Research in the NHS: Human Resource (HR) Good Practice Resource Pack describes the process for handling HR arrangements for researchers and provides a streamlined approach for confirming details of the pre-engagement checks they have undergone with the NHS.

The Resource Pack includes details of:

  • a Research Passport system for issuing honorary research contracts (HRCs) or letters of access to HEI researchers who need to undertake their research within the NHS. The research passport provides evidence of the pre-engagement checks undertaken on the researcher in line with NHS Employment Check Standards; and 
  • NHS to NHS arrangements for sharing and accepting pre-engagement checks between NHS organisations when NHS staff wish to undertake research within the NHS outside of their employing Trust.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) recommends the Research Passport to the NHS, to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and to other research employers working in partnership with the NIHR. The UKCRC Partners endorse the routine use of the Research Passport.

The Research Passport system and associated procedures have been developed in parallel with the development of the Integrated Research Application System and other arrangements across the UK to streamline the arrangements for obtaining permission for research from NHS organisations.

Changes to criminal record and barring arrangements - Sept 2012

The Government is committed to reviewing and reforming the vetting and barring scheme and criminal records regime, scaling them back to common sense levels. Changes to the system were included in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The first changes came into effect on 10 September 2012, and include:

  • a new definition of regulated activity
  • repeal of controlled activity
  • repeal of registration and continuous monitoring.

The HR Good Practice Resource Pack has been updated to reflect the changes. Researchers and their employers should ensure that where applicable new Research Passport applications are supported by an appropriate disclosure. In particular, from September 2012 onwards employers should only request a check against the ISA barred list(s) for positions that fall within the definition of regulated activity. Please note, anyone within the pre-September 2012 definition of regulated activity will remain eligible for enhanced CRB checks, whether or not they fall within the post-September 2012 definition of regulated activity.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) launched its update service on 17 June 2013. Anyone who is eligible for a DBS check, at any level, can also subscribe to the update service for an annual subscription of £13 per year.

There are a number of benefits to applicants and employers in using the new system. The new service will not introduce any new requirements to undertake periodic or retrospective checks on staff, and any decisions to undertake DBS checks on a regular basis continue to be down to local policy. 

Further advice

For advice on the use of the Research Passport, please see below for the relevant lead organisation and contact for each UK nation:

  • England: The NIHR Local Clinical Research Network (LCRN) support the implementation of this guidance across HEIs and the NHS in England. If you have any questions, please contact the Lead RM&G Manager of your local CRN
  • Scotland: NHS Research Scotland via NHS Scotland Health Boards. Contact: Liz Coote
  • Wales: NHS R&D office at NHS health board or NISCHR Permissions Coordinating function. Contact:
  • Northern Ireland: HSC R&D Office Research Passport Working Group. Contact: Sally Doherty.

Background Information

The HR Good Practice Resource Pack was initially developed with extensive support from the NHS R&D Forum working with the DHSC and partners in the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC).  The package sets out guidance and good practice standards, underpinned by standard documentation, so that individual NHS bodies can be confident that the process used to carry out criminal record and other checks on honorary researchers is in line with NHS Employment Check Standards. Following a systematic implementation programme in England during 2009/10, supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Networks, the HR resource pack has been refined to reflect feedback from users of the scheme, including researchers, HR in the NHS and University sectors.  

You can also use the interactive route map to gain an overview of how the scheme operates for University and NHS Researchers.

The Department of Education has published information on the scope of regulated activity in relation to children

The HR Good Practice resource pack 

HR Good Practice: Information for Researchers, R&D and HR staff in the NHS and HEIs
(Due to technical difficulties the links to resources in this document do not work.  However, all the resources can be accessed via the links below)

Flowchart 1: RP Research at a single site
Flowchart 2 RP research at more than one site
Flowchart 3 NHS to NHS arrangements

The Research Passport

The Research Passport: Algorithm of Research Activity and Pre-Engagement Checks
Research Passport form
Research Passport form appendix
NHS to NHS confirmation of pre-engagement checks
Instructions for completing the Research Passport form
CV template

Example documents 

Example honorary research contract and letter for university researchers (updated August 2013)
Example letter for university researchers, where the NHS site accepts an existing honorary research contract (updated August 2013)
Example letter of access for university who do not require an honorary research contract (updated August 2013)
Example NHS to NHS letter of access (updated August 2013)
Example letter of agreement between NHS organisations - Version 1.1
Example occupational health assessment questionnaire (under review)
Example evidence of occupational health clearance
Example confidentiality code of conduct - Version 1.0
Example confidentiality agreement between researcher and GP practice - Version 1.0

Frequently asked Questions

FAQs HR and contractual arrangements
FAQs Managing and monitoring the RP system

Background information

Honorary research contracts principles and legal requirements