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How to tell if your study is research, audit or service evaluation

  • Research is designed and conducted to create new knowledge. If this research is generalisable (i.e. can be applied beyond UH Bristol), then it falls under the Research Governance Framework, and you need to follow the systems of approval for NHS Research.
  • Audit is designed to answer the question "Does this service reach a predetermined standard?" Audits need to go through the UH Bristol Clinical Audit Department
  • Service evaluation is designed to answer the question "What standard does this service achieve?" If you are planning a new service, or changing the way you provide an existing service, you may be required by law to involve patients (service users) in this process. Please visit the Patient Experience Team for more information.  

It can sometimes be difficult to decide whether your survey project is research, audit or service evaluation. The National Research Ethics Service (NRES) has published the following guidance to help you decide: NRES Guidance PDF.

All three types of study require the approval of each NHS site where the study takes place, but the processes you need to follow will differ depending on whether the study is classed as research, audit or service evaluation. Only research requires REC (Research Ethics Committee) review.

If you've had a look at the NRES leaflet and you're still not sure, you can contact the following people for advice:

Research: research@uhbristol.nhs.uk or call the R&I department on 0117 34 20233

Audit: stuart.metcalfe@uhbristol.nhs.uk or call 0117 34 23614

Service Evaluation: paul.lewis@uhbristol.nhs.uk or call 0117 34 23638

Operational definitions of Clinical Audit, Research, Service Evaluation and Service Improvement activity have been agreed between the Trust's Clinical Governance Manager, Research Development Manager and Head of Innovation (September 2007).