RSPCA and LASA produce new guidelines

27 May 2010

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Category: Policy Issues

rspca–logo.jpgEthical Review Process (ERP) bodies within animal research institutions now have the tools to "develop more efficient and effective processes". This is thanks to a new set of guidelines published by the RSPCA and LASA which outline good practice.

ERPs are local bodes which are required by the Secretary of State to:

"...ensure that all use of animals in the establishment, as regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 is carefully considered and justified; that proper account is taken of all possibilities for reduction, refinement and replacement (the 3Rs); and that high standards of accommodation and care are achieved".

Home Office (2000) Guidance on the operation of ASPA (1986) Appendix J

The RSPCA and LASA initiated a review of ERPs in response to comments from the Home Office, Animal Procedures Committee (APC) and other groups that these needed to be more efficient:

"There would seem to be scope for many establishments to have more efficient arrangements, and it would be worth certificate holders comparing their local arrangements and discussing possible efficiency gains with the Home Office."

Surveying the ethical review process, ASPI Annual Report 2006

The report is based on the output of two workshops involving members of ERPs, and incorporates points from within the better regulation agenda. It summarises their findings into ten key points:

  1. Have a clear concept of what the outcomes of your ERP should be
  2. Make sure that in discharging its functions your ERP ‘adds value; over and above the work of other external or internal bodies
  3. Make sure all the ERP functions are addressed in the same way
  4. Think carefully about the selection of participants and particularly the Chair
  5. Make sure the process is organised efficiently
  6. Ensure that all staff know what the ERP is for, why it is important, who is involved and how it affects them
  7. Ensure effective communication within and between all parts of the ERP and any other bodies that impact on its work
  8. Be reactive and responsible to the needs of ERP ‘users'
  9. At intervals, re-evaluate whether the ERP's aims are being achieved and whether its operation is efficient and appropriate, making sure its resources are directed where they are most needed and can make most difference
  10. Try to interact with and share good practice ideas with participants in other ERPs

UAR supports the emphasis of these guidelines on animal welfare, the 3Rs and better regulation. The guidelines should provide helpful assistance to ERPs, not least to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.

In particular, the guidelines highlight how ERPs should avoid disproportion focus on function 2, namely examining proposed applications for new project licences and amendments to existing licences. To avoid duplication of the work of the Home Office Inspector, ERPs should focus on a local perspective, and have mechanisms to streamline any paperwork.

With the implementation of the revised European Directive 86/609 (regarding the use of animals in research) on the horizon, ERPs could usefully be starting to consider what direction they will need to move towards in the future. There is a more minimal requirement in the revised EU 86 for the equivalent of ERPs (Animal Welfare Bodies) to:

"follow the development and outcome of projects taking into account the effect on the animals used, and identifying and advising on elements that further contribute to replacement, reduction and refinement"