Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

About the HTA

The HTA is an executive Non-Departmental Public Body sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care, established by the Human Tissue Act 2004.

Our overall goal is to maintain public confidence by ensuring that the removal, storage and use of human tissue and organs are undertaken safely and ethically, and with proper consent.

We also have a role in maintaining professional confidence; by assuring that human material being used by professionals has been obtained with the proper consent and is managed with appropriate care.

Our role

  • We license organisations that remove, store and use human tissue for certain activities under the Human Tissue Act 2004;
  • We license organisations involved in preparing tissues and cells for use in patient treatment as required by the EU Tissues and Cells Directives (EUTCD);
  • We license organisations involved in organ donation and transplantation as required by the EU Organ Donation Directive (EUODD);
  • We monitor and inspect or audit organisations to ensure they comply with the requirements of the legislation and our Codes of Practice;
  • We use our powers to take regulatory action where we identify non-compliance;
  • We assess living organ donations to ensure donors are protected from duress or coercion, and that no reward is offered or given;
  • We provide information, advice and guidance to the public and professionals about the nature and purpose of activities within our remit;
  • We monitor developments relating to activities within our remit and advise Government on related issues.

In addition to our statutory role we are increasingly called upon to provide advice on areas related to, but not specified in, our legislation. This is particularly important in areas of emerging technology and cutting-edge research not originally envisaged when the Human Tissue Act was enacted.

Our remit

  • Removal, storage and use of human tissue and organs for a number of activities and scheduled purposes as set out in the Human Tissue Act 2004, such as post-mortem examination, anatomical examination, research, transplantation and public display;
  • Procurement, testing, preservation, processing, storage, distribution, import and export of tissues and cells for use in patient treatment (human application);
  • Donation, testing, characterisation, procurement, preservation, transport, transplantation and disposal of organs for transplantation.

Our remit under the Human Tissue Act 2004 extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland; however, we also carry out some activities in relation to the approval of living organ donations on behalf of the Scottish Government. Our remit as the Competent Authority for the quality and safety of tissues, cells and organs used in transplantation extends to the whole of the UK.

We license approximately 860 premises across the six sectors that we regulate and publish standards and requirements that those working within the regulated fields must meet.

Whilst the HTA has an influential role in superintending compliance and promoting good practice, public confidence in the use of human tissue cannot be safeguarded by the HTA alone. Public confidence is also dependent on the individuals and organisations that undertake activities within the HTA’s remit acting within the standards and requirements of the legislation.

Guiding principles

Four guiding principles continue to drive our work and underpin our regulatory framework. They should be followed in dealing with human bodies, tissue and organs:

  • Consent - and the wishes of the donor (or in some cases, their nominated representatives or relatives) are the primary consideration when removing, storing and using human tissue.
  • Dignity - is paramount in the treatment of human bodies and tissue.
  • Quality - must underpin the management of human bodies and tissue.
  • Honesty and openness - are the foundation of communications in matters pertaining to the use of human tissue and bodies.

Our values

Our values as an organisation in carrying out our role, expressed in all external interactions:

  • Expertise - being responsive, providing specialist knowledge
  • Excellence - focus on achieving exceptional results and inspiring others to do the same
  • Integrity - be trustworthy, honest, fair and consistent
  • Respect - have empathy and be impartial; value others’ expertise and experience
  • Transparency - be open and collaborative, and involve and communicate effectively.

Key activities

In our previous strategy, we described our key activities as grouped within three themes:

  • Delivery - how we achieve our strategic objectives today
  • Development - how we will improve in the future
  • Deployment - how we effectively use our people and resources

This strategy continues to build on these themes, with a renewed focus on striving to be a more resilient, sustainable and agile organisation in order to meet the challenges ahead. More detail can be found in the Strategic Approach section of this document.