NHS Honorary Research Contracts and the Research Passport

When is an NHS Honorary Research Contract required?

An Honorary Research Contract (HRC) is required when researchers are not employed by an NHS organisation in either a substantive or honorary way and their research activity has a "direct bearing on the quality of patient care". The Research Passport is a method by which NHS organisations can be assured that the appropriate checks have been carried out and recorded, thus ensuring that duplicate checks are not required.

Comprehensive guidance has been produced which covers many issues, including the pre-engagement checks required. The Research Passport should be completed by researchers and their substantive emloyer. Full details can be found on the NIHR Research Passports webpage (including contacts for further advice in each UK nation).

The Research Passport also covers other standardised procedures for handling the HR arrangements for researchers, more details of which can also be found in the Human Resources (HR) Good Resource Pack.

Note: Decisions about the checks required for researchers entering an NHS establishment rest with that establishment. The Research Passport provides a mechanism by which researchers can show the checks already in place.


Who does not need a Research Passport?

  • Researchers with substantive NHS employment contracts

The NHS has existing mechanisms for these staff to work across NHS organisations.

  • Researchers with Honorary Clinical Contracts (e.g. Clinical Academics)

These researchers have joint NHS/university posts which enable them to conduct clinical duties including research, and to work across NHS organisations through the existing NHS systems.

The mechanisms by which researchers with substantive NHS employment contracts can work across NHS organisations can be summarised as follows:

The research work forms part of their NHS clinical duties and should be covered by a service level agreement or other joint contractual arrangement between the NHS organisations - with no requirement for an HRC.  Some other pre-engagement checks may still be required e.g. enhanced CRB check. Details of these checks can be found in the HR Good Practice Resource Pack: Algorithm of research activity and pre-engagement checks.

The UK Clinical Research Collaboration developed the Research Passport system through the NHS R&D Forum. For further details please see the UKCRC Partners statement of support for the Research Passport.