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Getting started with research

Find out about the approvals and training you need to have in place before you can embark on a research study or clinical trial.

Is it research?

Please check that your work counts as research, as it may instead be defined under a different category, such as an audit or service evaluation. Different criteria apply to these, so it’s important to check this before you begin. Alternatively, you can email


It is a legal requirement for all clinical trials (CTIMPs) to have a sponsor. UHS may act as a sponsor, but also requires full R&D approval to be obtained. To apply for UHS to act as a sponsor for your research study, please email the following documents to

If your study is commercially sponsored, please contact our divisional research teams on 023 8120 4862 or by email at

Integrated Research Application System (IRAS)

Submission to the relevant regulations is through IRAS. This system allows you to apply for the approvals you need to do health and social care research in the UK, including ethical approval.

Please answer “YES” to question 5b on the IRAS project filter page where eligible. This is now the only mode of entry onto the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) Portfolio, and therefore the only way for your study to access NHS service support costs and research nursing support.

We strongly advise you to contact the R&D communications team ( before submitting material you plan to use for recruitment to the Research Ethics Committee (REC), so they can work with you on the design and wording to maximise the chances of meeting your recruitment target.

R&D capacity and capability review

Capacity and capability must be assessed by the R&D department prior to commencing any research. An NHS approvals training course is run two to three times a year. This is an hour and a half long, and not only covers how to get R&D approval, but also gives a brief overview of the next steps afterwards. To find out more and register to attend, please email

Research passport, honorary contract or letter of access

If you are a non-NHS employee, a postgraduate student or an NHS employee from another trust, you will need to apply for a research passport. Apply through IRAS or email for more information.

  • Research passport: for non-NHS employees to cover a single research study
  • Honorary clinical contract: for non-NHS employees to cover all research within an extended period
  • Letter of access: for NHS employees from another trust

You do not need this if UHS is your substantive employer, you have an honorary clinical contract with UHS or you are an undergraduate student at the University of Southampton conducting clinical research as part of your degree.

If you are an UHS employee and plan to conduct research in other NHS trust, please pre-complete the NHS to NHS confirmation of pre-engagement checks and send it together with your CV and GCP certificate to

Good clinical practice (GCP) training

Clinical trial research teams need to have completed GCP training (online or face-to-face). This must be updated at least every three years, or every two years for commercially sponsored research, by attending refresher courses. See dates of upcoming courses on the CRN Wessex website, and register to attend via NIHR Learn or by emailing