Permission and approval

The NHS Act

Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006 (which superceded Section 60 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001) applies in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It allows the common law duty of confidentiality with regard to patient information to be set aside in specific circumstances, where anonymised information is not sufficient and where patient consent is not practicable. This legislation provides for the use of confidential patient information for medical research purposes, and may thus apply to some forms of social science research.

The use of confidential patient information is not automatically permitted, but must be requested from the Ethics and Confidentiality Committee (ECC) of the National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care (NGIB). This body has replaced the Patient Information Advisory Group (PIAG) which used to consider applications for approval to use Section 251 support.

Applications for Section 251 support can be made using the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) . Click here for our guidance on using the IRAS system. The IRAS system (within the forms) also contains guidance on applying to the NIGB – log in to IRAS for more information.