I was interested to read the article in this week’s GP (27 October) about conducting research in general practice.
However as a Chairman of a Local Research Ethics Committee (LREC), I was surprised to find no mention of the need for ethical approval.
If GPs are involved in large multicentre trials then these have first to be approved by the appropriate ethics committee, then a Site-Specific Assessment (SSA) is carried out by the LREC who will look at the experience of the researcher, the suitability of the premises and any local factors, such as interpreters being available.
If GPs wish to carry out a new piece of research then they must apply for ethical approval. Helpful advice, guidance and the form can be found on the Central Office for Research Ethics Committees (COREC) website www.corec.org.uk . This also has the contact details for the co-ordinators of each committees, who can be approached for more detailed or specific advice. Most chairmen are also happy to be approached via the co-ordinator for advice.
RECs are there to protect participants but also to help and promote good quality research.
It should also be noted that GPs will also have to gain separate approval from their PCT.
Dr Patricia Wilkinson