Role of the Human Tissue Authority

The role of the Human Tissue Authority: Ensuring ethical practice in healthcare

In the complex healthcare landscape, the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) plays a pivotal role in ensuring that human tissue is used safely, ethically, and respectfully. Established by the Human Tissue Act 2004, the HTA regulates activities relating to the removal, storage, use, and disposal of human tissue, organs, and bodies. In this blog, Dr Richard Dune delves into the vital functions of the HTA, key regulations, best practices for compliance, and how organisations can effectively meet these standards.

Key facts and statistics

  • Establishment - The HTA was established in 2005 under the Human Tissue Act 2004.
  • Scope - The HTA regulates approximately 800 licensed establishments across the UK.
  • Inspection and licensing - In 2022, the HTA conducted over 200 inspections to ensure compliance with regulatory standards.
  • Regulated activities - The HTA oversees activities such as organ and tissue transplantation, post-mortem examinations, anatomical examinations, and the use of human tissue in research.

Key definitions

  • Human tissue - Refers to any constituent part of the human body formed by cells, excluding gametes.
  • Consent - A fundamental principle under the Human Tissue Act 2004 requiring explicit permission to use, store, or dispose of human tissue.
  • Licensing - Organisations handling human tissue must obtain a licence from the HTA, ensuring they meet rigorous standards.

Recommended best practices for implementation

Implementing the relevant legislation and regulations enforced by the HTA involves a series of best practices to ensure compliance and ethical standards. Here are key recommendations:

  • Obtain and maintain HTA licences - Organisations must apply for and secure HTA licences for activities involving human tissue. Maintaining these licences requires regular inspections and adherence to HTA standards.
  • Informed consent procedures - Ensure robust procedures for obtaining informed consent are in place. Consent must be voluntary, informed, and given by an individual with the capacity to do so.
  • Training and Education - Regular staff training on HTA regulations, ethical considerations, and practical procedures is essential. This ensures that all personnel know their responsibilities and the importance of compliance.
  • Record keeping - Maintain accurate and comprehensive records of all activities involving human tissue. This includes consent documentation, records of tissue use, storage logs, and disposal records.
  • Internal audits and inspections - Conduct regular internal audits to identify potential areas of non-compliance and address them promptly. This proactive approach can prevent issues and ensure continuous adherence to HTA standards.

Key regulations

The Human Tissue Act 2004 and associated HTA codes of practice provide a regulatory framework for using human tissue. Key regulations include:

  • Consent requirements - Explicit and informed consent is required to store and use human tissue.
  • Licensing regulations - Organisations must obtain licences for activities involving human tissue.
  • Traceability - Systems must be in place to ensure the traceability of human tissue from donation to disposal.
  • Governance and quality systems - Establishments must implement robust governance and quality management systems.


To align with HTA regulations and best practices, organisations should:

  • Adopt comprehensive compliance management systems - Use tools like ComplyPlus™ to effectively manage compliance with HTA regulations. This software helps track licencing requirements, consent procedures, and other regulatory obligations.
  • Invest in continuous training - Ensure all staff members receive ongoing training to stay current with HTA regulations and ethical standards.
  • Implement regular audits - Conduct internal and external audits to ensure continuous compliance and identify areas for improvement.


The Human Tissue Authority is critical in maintaining ethical standards in using human tissue in the UK. Compliance with HTA regulations is not just a legal obligation but a moral imperative to respect individuals' dignity. By following best practices and leveraging tools like ComplyPlus™, organisations can ensure they meet these standards effectively.

Click here to learn more and ensure your organisation complies with the Human Tissue Authority regulations by utilising ComplyPlus™. Our comprehensive compliance management software and training programmes are designed to help you quickly navigate the complexities of HTA regulations.

About the author

Dr Richard Dune

With over 20 years of experience, Richard blends a rich background in NHS, the private sector, academia, and research settings. His forte lies in clinical R&D, advancing healthcare tech, workforce development and governance. His leadership ensures regulatory compliance and innovation align seamlessly.

The role of the human tissue authority: ensuring ethical practice in healthcare - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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