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You are here: Home Section 251 How do I Apply?

Applying for section 251 support

Application process

Each application to the NIGB ECC goes through a number of validation and review phases before a recommendation is made by the committee to the Secretary of State for Health.

The first validation stage will determine whether there is sufficient information for the application to be presented to the committee. The NIGB office will explore any issues or queries which may arise from the information presented to them. This may involve a telephone interview being scheduled and/or a query sheet being sent to the applicant. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure these take place at the scheduled time and that queries responded to within the given timescales. In some instances applicants may be asked to revise their application form to ensure the information presented to the committee is clear. At the first validation stage the NIGB office may provide advice regarding potential alternatives to the use of patient identifiable data without consent and, if necessary, you will be advised to speak to other parties potentially involved in the activity about the application.

Following the first validation stage the applicant will be advised whether the application will be submitted for full committee review or processed via proportionate review and given details of the timescales involved.

A high level process map of the application process is available on our website, as is a process map of the proportionate review process.

Before submission

You are advised to consult the proportionate review criteria if you intend to submit a proportionate review application. If you do not consult the criteria or are unsure whether your application can be handled under the proportionate review process you must ensure that you submit your application to meet one of the meeting deadlines. Applications submitted after a meeting deadline which do not meet any proportionate review criteria will be scheduled to the next meeting date and you are advised that this will cause a delay in your application being considered.

If you intend to make an application to the NIGB you must consult the pre-application checklist prior to submitting your application. This will ensure that you are aware of the minimum requirements of the Health Service (Control of Patient Information) Regulations 2002 under which the committee provide advice to the Secretary of State.

If you still have questions about our process and criteria after reviewing our website please telephone the Office on 0207 004 1539.  We are only able to take queries regarding potential applications during clinic times, 1-4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Application form

Research applicants – Integrated Research Application System – IRAS

Applicants completing a research project should use IRAS to make an application for section 251 support. IRAS is a single, integrated application system that has been developed to simplify applying for approval or permission to conduct a piece of research in the Health Service. For more information please see the IRAS website.

Please note that with immediate effect, where the application involves research ECC advice letters will be automatically shared with the appropriate research ethics committee in order to facilitate a streamlined review process.

Please note, we are not yet set up to receive applications direct from the IRAS system. You MUST save your application form and email it to

Non – research applications (audit or service evaluation) – Section 251 form.

Non – research applicants can either use IRAS or continue to use the section 251 application form.

Download the section 251 application form (Word, 68Kb)

Proportionate review process

Applicants fulfilling certain criteria can use the proportionate review process.

Please see criteria and guidance on proportionate review process (PDF, 80.6Kb)

Section 251 security arrangements

Standard conditions of approval

All approved applications will have to agree to the Ethics and Confidentiality Committee standard conditions of approval.

Download ECC standard conditions of approval (PDF, 9Kb) (last updated August 2012).

Appeals and complaints

Download the NIGB appeals and complaints process (PDF, 17Kb)