The history of the National Health Service research ethics system in the UK and some of the key drivers for its change into the present system are described. It is suggested that the key drivers were the unnecessary delay of research, the complexity of the array of processes and contradictions between research ethics committee (REC) decisions. It is then argued that the primary drivers for this change are and will be replicated by the systems of research ethics review being put in place at UK universities in response to the Economic and Social Research Council research ethics framework. It is argued that this is particularly problematic for multi-centre review and for researchers who switch institutions. Finally, some potential solutions to this problem and their feasibility are discussed.
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