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Human Resources


What is the Research Passport?

A Research Passport is the mechanism for non-NHS staff to obtain an Honorary Research Contract or Letter of Access (LOA) when they propose to carry out research in the NHS. This replaces the previous Honorary Research contract process. The Research Passport system provides:

  • One set of checks on a researcher conducting research in the NHS.
  • One standard form completed by the researcher and his/her employer, and validated by an NHS organisation.
  • A completed Research Passport which is presented to all the relevant NHS organisations.
  • Faster study start-up.

Who does not need a Research Passport?

You will not need a Research Passport or an Honorary Research Contract if:

  • You are employed by an NHS organisation; or
  • You are an independent contractor (e.g. GP) or employed by an independent contractor; or
  • You have an honorary clinical contract with an NHS Trust e.g. clinical academics. In this situation if you wanted to research in another NHS Trust you would need to apply to their R&D department directly for a Letter of Access; or
  • You are a student on a healthcare placement.

Who needs a Research Passport?

If you are not in any of the above categories and you have no contractual relationship with the NHS, you will need a Research Passport if you are proposing to carry out research in the NHS. If you are unsure whether you require a Research Passport please contact the Research and Development office at the Trust where you intend to carry out your research for clarification.

A Research Passport may be project-specific or may be valid for a period of three years for a number of projects.


If an individual is coming to clinically observe and it is unclear as to whether this is part of a research project or not, please call the relevant NHS Trust's Medical Staffing section in the first instance. They will confirm whether the individual will need to make a Research Passport application, or whether an Honorary Clinical Observers Contract should be applied for instead. These will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

How do I get a Research Passport?

  1. Read the guidance for completing the Research Passport form and see the checklist.

  2. Contact the R&D department in your lead NHS Trust to confirm which pre-engagement checks you need.

  3. Complete the necessary occupational health assessments and/or a criminal record disclosure application as detailed in the What type of pre-engagement checks table.

  4. Complete sections 1–3 of the Research Passport form.

  5. Ask your University line manager/supervisor to complete section 4.

  6. Send form, checklist coversheet and documentary evidence to the HR Division. Contact details can be found here:

  7. The HR Division/Board of Graduate Studies will sign off their part of the form and return it to you.

  8. Once the form has been authorised by one NHS organisation it becomes a valid Research Passport that you can provide to other NHS organisations when you require an Honorary Research Contract or Letter of Access.

You may only start your work within an NHS Trust when that Trust has issued you with either an Honorary Research Contract or a Letter of Access. Please note that the Research Passport is only the mechanism to apply for these, it is not in itself permission to work in an NHS Trust.