The revised National Ethics Standards

24 October 2019

NEAC are pleased to announce that the revised National Ethics Standards for Health and Disability Research (the Standards) will be published on 16 December 2019. The Standards apply to all health and disability research and quality improvement in New Zealand.

These standards set out the ethical requirements that:

  • researchers must meet or exceed when undertaking health and disability research
  • health service providers and disability service providers must meet or exceed when conducting quality improvement activities. (Health service providers include health service workers, nurses, clinicians and any person involved in quality improvement.)

The Standards apply whether or not research or quality improvement activities require review by an ethics committee.

These Standards take a risk-based approach to ethical oversight. Ethical review should be proportionate to the risk proposed by the activity. A low level of ethical scrutiny applied to a research project or quality improvement activity assessed as low or minimal risk does not imply a lower level of adherence to the core principles. The intention of the Standards is to ensure adequate protection of participants while reducing unnecessary impediments to, and facilitating the progress of, ethical research.

Quality improvement activities are generally low risk, but nevertheless providers should conduct them according to these Standards. Research can also be low risk, but is often not, warranting higher ethical oversight.

Implementation and ethical review systems

As part of the implementation of the Standards, NEAC and the Ministry of Health will host a road show throughout New Zealand, providing training and guidance of the new NEAC standards. The expected locations will be Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and will take place during February 2020. Dates and venue details are to be confirmed and will be added to this page closer to the time.

There will be a period (until July 2020) where the existing Health and Disability Ethics Committee Online Forms IT system will continue to operate.  During this period, the HDEC online application system will still refer to the previous 2012 NEAC Guidelines, and reflect the fact that system was built for two different sets of guidelines.

NEAC has been informed by the Ministry of Health that they are due to commence a full review of the systems that support the work of the HDEC. This is part of a wider Ministry project that looks to modernise the Ministry’s Operational Ethics system and to ensure that the HDECs reflect the NEAC Standards and the New Zealand Health Research Strategy. As part of this project the current IT system will be upgraded with a new ethics application form which will be based on the revised NEAC Standards and the revised HDEC Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

In the meantime, NEAC ask that you complete the HDEC online application while using and referring to the revised Standards.

The Ministry has also informed NEAC that there will be a targeted public consultation process, where there is an opportunity for the public to provide feedback on the current HDEC SOPs, number of HDEC committees and type and number of HDEC membership categories.  This process is expected to commence in April/May 2020.

We welcome any feedback on the revised Standards and their implementation at neac@health.govt.nz.

Further information

To access the full consultation document and summary of submissions, please go to Draft National Ethical Standards for Health and Disability Research: Consultation document.