Investigation routes to take in cases of suspicion

RECs are advisory bodies without executive functions; they are not detective agencies, they are not legal entities in themselves, and they have no authority to investigate suspected or admitted misconduct. Their duty is to bring the matter to the attention of their establishing body - usually the health authority/commission or trust, as directed in HSG(91)5:

Para 3.22

LREC advice not requested or ignored

If it comes to the attention of a committee that research is being carried out, which it has not been asked to consider or which it has considered but its recommendations have been ignored, then the LREC should bring the matter to the attention of its appointing authority, the relevant NHS body and to the appropriate professional body.

Thereafter RECs should cooperate in the investigations led by others. An REC is in a prime position to assist, being probably the only source of comprehensive information about an individual investigator's research activity. RECs have no power to ensure that all research is submitted to them or to stop research that they regard as unethical. They cannot know about research where an investigator is deliberately circumventing ethical review, examples of which are quoted elsewhere in this chapter. They also do not know of studies that the researchers themselves have chosen to regard as audit, which in general does not require ethical approval.

Health research carried out by the NHS in England and Wales must meet new standards designed to protect participants, improve quality, and stop research fraud. The research governance consultative document3 identifies growing public and professional concern about research misconduct and fraud. It refers to appropriate systems for detecting, investigating, and addressing fraud, along with those with whom they have partnership arrangements. Many bodies already have or are updating their procedures.

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