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Ethics & Confidentiality Committee

From 04 March 2013 information on the ‘section 251’ approval process has been transferred to the HRA website and the NIGB website will no longer be updated. All current information on the application process and approved applications is now sited on the Health Research Authority website here  http://www.hra.nhs.uk/hra-confidentiality-advisory-group/. Applicants should bookmark this link and use this to locate up to date information.

The Ethics and Confidentiality Committee (ECC) has been established to undertake the responsibilities of the National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care (NIGB) under section 251 of the NHS Act 2006 and to consider and advise on ethical issues relating to the processing of health or social care information as referred to it by the NIGB.

Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006 (originally enacted under Section 60 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001), allows identifiable patient information to be used without consent in very specific circumstances.

Applications for approval to use Section 251 support were previously considered by the Patient Information Advisory Group (PIAG) and are now considered by the ECC. The members of PIAG were invited to become members of the ECC. Members are now appointed by the NIGB except for the Chair who is a publically appointed member of the NIGB; there are 16 members in total

The ECC receives between 90-100 applications each year with an average time between application submission and decision of 40 working days for a standard application. There is also a fast track approval process for applications which meet certain criteria to be considered outside of formal committee meetings.

Each application for section 251 support is considered carefully and a judgment made on whether the benefits of the NHS activity or proposed research are significant enough to set aside the common law duty of confidentiality in favour of public interest.

Queries to the ECC secretariat