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Research & Development

There are many ways to get involved with research, at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Register your project for Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS)

What is CRIS?

Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) provides a means of analysing de-identified data from the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (OHFT) electronic patient records.  CRIS unlocks and transforms clinical data held in Trust systems to provide a rich and pseudonymised resource allowing researchers and clinicians to investigate hypotheses and identify patient cohorts. CRIS also provides an invaluable tool for service evaluation and clinical audit.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust are also part of the CRIS Network.  This is a group of highly innovative NHS Mental Health Trusts who are working together to accelerate research work in dementia and mental health.  For further information on this network and its members please see the CRIS Network website.

Access to clinical information is clearly a sensitive issue and a security model was developed which has been considered and approved by the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust Caldicott Guardian and the Trust Executive.

Clinical Records

Trust Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems hold a wealth of useful patient data. CRIS transforms this information into a pseudonymised database appropriate for research, service evaluation and clinical audit use.

Data Transformation

The transformation of data enables CRIS users to access the wealth of information recorded during patient care by healthcare professionals. This includes data recorded in coded and structured form, for example dates and numbers, plus data held in unstructured free text form, for example, within written assessments, progress notes and correspondence. After transformation, free text data can constitute a large part of the content of information held within CRIS, although this will depend on the amount of unstructured data held in the source EPR system.

The transformation process uses the patient’s EPR system identifier to derive a unique ID for each patient in the database. This ID does not allow CRIS users to identify patients. However, where patients have given appropriate consent, the ID can be used by authorised personnel to contact patients who have been identified as potential recruits to an ethics approved research project.

How can I access CRIS?

Access to CRIS requires either an NHS contract or a Research Passport.  Users must agree to the UK CRIS Terms and Conditions Template prior to gaining access to CRIS.

If you have a substantive contract with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust you can apply via an OHFT network computer.  For details on how to complete a user application please refer to the section below on CRIS navigation training or contact if you have additional questions.

What is a Research Passport and who needs one?

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.  Please see Research Passport guidelines for instructions and templates.

You will also need to supply a copy of your CV, a blank CV Template can be found here

You will not need a research passport if:

  • you are employed by an NHS organisation: For NHS researchers who have a substantive NHS contract of employment or clinical academics with an honorary clinical contract with an NHS organisation, and who need an NHS to NHS letter of access from an NHS organisation hosting their research.
  • you are an independent contractor (e.g. GP) or employed by an independent contractor;
  • 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 research and development (R&D) department directly for a Letter of Access; or
  • you are a student on a healthcare placement.

However you will need a NHS to NHS Proforma  which can be downloaded here

Once the above has been received by CRIS Admin and approved you can register for access to CRIS.

Registering as a CRIS user

Register for your CRIS User account here.  Please note this link is only available via an Oxford Health IT account.

Registering a CRIS Project

Once your user account has been approved you can then register a project for research, service evaluation or clinical audit.  Projects can have multiple users attached to them, therefore only one project is required per question.  Prior to registering your project however please contact to establish the feasibility of your search.

To assist you in determining your approach to interrogating the data we have produced a sample data plan which can be found here.

Click here for the CRIS Network training page in relation to creating a CRIS Project.  To determine whether your project is Research, Service Evaluation or Clinical Audit please click here. Additional information regarding the suggested content for the ‘Summary, Research and Scientific Justification’ fields, please see here for further information.

To create a CRIS Project click here

Once all this is in place your project will then be reviewed by the Oversight group.

CRIS Navigation Training

A training package which provides information regarding the navigation of CRIS and how to conduct a basic and advanced search is available via the CRIS Network website which includes forums, useful documentation and information relating to the CRIS Network.  It may be accessed from any computer. All CRIS Users should register for a CRIS Network account which will then allow them to view the training documentation.

Once registered you can log in and access the CRIS user training here.

Security Requirements of CRIS use

CRIS can only be accessed from the OHFT network.  Data from CRIS must be kept within the OHFT firewall and can only be saved on the CRIS shared drive on OHFT computers. CRIS data CANNOT be saved on personal or encrypted USB sticks. CRIS data must not be emailed from OHFT machines to your personal email or a University email. Please be aware that additional permission is required for derived data to be analysed outside of the OHFT firewall, from the CRIS Oversight Group.  CRIS researchers are only permitted to access their own CRIS Project folders and files located either within the CRIS Remote Desktop or the G:\Oxfordshire\CRIS Projects.  Access is not permitted to other projects folders and files.  Please also note that currently SPSS and R are the only statistical programmes that are available within the Research and Development Team.

The security model includes regular audits of searches carried out using CRIS (all searches by all users are recorded and can be audited). For this to be possible, we keep a record of all projects carried out involving CRIS analysis along with general specification of the type of searches which will be required.

Ethics and research governance approval assume anonymity of the data analysed.  As with any dataset, there is the potential within this database to compromise anonymity by generating unique variable combinations or rare categories. CRIS users are asked to consider whether this issue may occur and strategies to avoid compromising anonymity.  Alternatively they may wish to obtain specific ethics approval for an analysis where this risk is likely to be significant. Searching under clinicians’ names are a sensitive issue; this type of information in research would have to be justified.

CRIS Application Approval Process

The CRIS Oversight Group, led by the Trust Caldicott Guardian will review all requests to use CRIS as a de-identified database. It is important for the Trust to demonstrate that OHFT clinical data are used responsibly and for projects with demonstrable research and clinical importance.

The future of CRIS, as with other aspects of OHFT research, depends on successful bids for future funding. This in turn requires evidence of use of the database, hence the need to keep a record of individual projects.

The CRIS Oversight Group has a role in facilitating CRIS analyses and to advise on how best to extract robust data. The database is potentially complex and users will be encouraged to collaborate and share expertise and hands-on experience. The information submitted in the project application form will be used to provide a database for this purpose to assist future researchers.

Collaborations and Grant Applications for CRIS use

All work, which requires the use of CRIS must be reviewed and approved by the CRIS Oversight Group.  This should be taken in to account when completing any applications or considering a collaboration, which require the use of CRIS data.  Failure to inform the CRIS Oversight Group of a grant, research application or collaboration may result in the project being declined.

Need further help?

If you have any questions please email

CRIS search ideas – Top 10’s

Below are links to the Top 10 priorities for future research in mental health, agreed by the Priority Setting Partnerships (PSP).  Why not consider conducting a CRIS search to answer one of these questions.

James Lind brings patients, carers and clinicians together in Priority Setting Partnerships (PSPs) to identify and prioritise the Top 10 uncertainties, or unanswered questions, about the effects of treatments.

The aim of this is to make sure that health research funders are aware of the issues that matter most to patients and clinicians.





Eating Disorders


CRIS privacy and GDPR

How are patient details protected?

CRIS information is held securely with strict arrangements about who can access the information.  This will include Trust staff, clinicians and approved researchers.  The information will only be used for the purpose of health and care research, service evaluation, clinical audit or to contact you about future opportunities to participate in research.

Where there is a risk that you can be identified your data will only be used in research that has been independently reviewed by an ethics committee.  For further information on ‘patient information and health and care research’ see the Health Research Authority (HRA) or for CRIS specific information see our CRIS Privacy Notice

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