How to get involved in research

This following information is intended to provide an overview of how Research and Development (R&D) can support you to undertake your project in the trust. Ideally, we would ask that you contact us as early as you can in your project development so we can help provide the right guidance from the beginning.

R&D can provide support and guidance through all stages of the project from project design, getting the right approvals in place, carrying out the research, right through to spreading the word about your results.

Contact R&D to discuss your project

The first step is to contact the R&D office to discuss your project. Our team must review any research that is conducted within the trust to ensure compliance with local policy and national legislation.

NIHR portfolio Research

The NIHR Portfolio consists of high-quality clinical research studies across a range of over 26 speciality groups that are eligible for consideration for research support from the Clinical Research Network in England. If your study has been adopted on to the NIHR portfolio, DHC R&D can offer support with the set-up and research delivery - from identifying eligible participants to the collection of data and biological samples.

Dorset HealthCare is responsible for providing a diverse assortment of mental and physical healthcare services across the county. If you are interested in working with us then please contact us with information about your study, the patients and services you wish to involve and the timescale for delivery.

Non-Portfolio Research

If you do not wish to seek portfolio adoption for your research or your project is ineligible, then the team can only offer limited support. Importantly, the R&D office will still need to review all the relevant study documentation and formally grant approval for the research activity to take place within the trust. To facilitate this process, we ask that researchers compile a set of documents outlined in this checklist in order to complete our due diligence.

The steps below provide an insight into the steps you must take to complete the document pack.


Is your project research?

One of the most important steps you must take when developing your project is to determine whether it should be classified as research, quality improvement or clinical audit. Each of these endeavours has a slightly different focus and will also determine whether you will need to seek approval from the Health Research Authority or an NHS Research Ethics Committee.

Importantly, all projects (i.e. research, evaluation or audit) need some degree of approval whether that is at service, trust or national level. It is also essential that your project is undertaken with the knowledge and involvement of clinical teams. This ensures the project is relevant to clinical practice, likely to succeed and that the results are shared for the benefit of staff and patients alike.

The HRA have provided a handy decision tool to assist researchers in determining whether a project is research. The R&D office will refer to this tool when considering how your project should be classified.

If DHC R&D advise that your project should not be classified as research, then there is no need to apply for HRA Approval or to an NHS REC. However, you should still contact the relevant specialist teams within the trust to ensure you are compliant with all local review arrangements which may apply. For example, to ensure the Caldicott Guardian and/or Data Protection Officer have been consulted on the use of patient data.

Do you have a sponsor?

All research requires an organisation to act as sponsor. The sponsor takes formal, legal responsibility for ensuring the effective oversight of the initiation, management, and financing of the research. The sponsor also provides the indemnity insurance for the research.

If you are undertaking your research as part of an educational course (e.g., a masters or PhD) then your university must act as your sponsor. Each university will have an individual internal process to apply for sponsorship, usually through their institutional ethical approval process. Your academic supervisor should be able to provide you with more information about this process.

Unfortunately, Dorset Healthcare is not currently in a position to act as sponsor for research on behalf of trust staff. Therefore, if you are employed by Dorset Healthcare and are neither a student nor hold a contract with a university then you will need to seek the approval of an organisation willing to sponsor the work. In this case you will need to contact DHC R&D to discuss how you might take this forwards.

What approvals do you need?


If your project can be classified as research, you will need to seek approval from the Health Research Authority (HRA) and you may require approval from an NHS Research Ethics Committee (NHS REC) before you can begin work at Dorset Healthcare. The Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) is an online portal that must be used to apply for approvals from both the HRA and NHS REC.

IRAS will begin governance checks of your project and you may be contacted for clarification of any issues relating to the projects or documentation. If required, review by an NHS Research Ethics Committee (NHS REC) will take place at the same time. To open an IRAS account, go to and create an account using your email address and a password. You will receive an email confirming your details

DHC R&D Confirmation of Capacity and Capability

In addition, you must receive formal confirmation of capacity and capability to conduct the research from DHC R&D Office before any research activity can take place. As part of confirming capacity and capability the research governance team will require you to supply a set of documents called a "Local Information Pack" to the DHC R&D Office by email. Importantly, we ask that you do not submit the LIP until you are asked to do so.

Final confirmation that your study can start is provided by email by the R&D office once the study has received HRA approval (and REC approvals, where required) and all supporting documentation and contracts are in place. Once you receive this confirmation, you are free to begin work.

Research & Development