Section 251 and the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG)

Access to confidential patient information without consent

Role of CAG

CAG provides independent expert advice to the HRA (for research applications) and the Secretary of State for Health (for non-research applications) on whether applications to access patient information without consent should or should not be approved. The role of CAG is to review applications and advise whether there is sufficient justification to access the requested confidential patient information. Using CAG advice as a basis for their consideration, the HRA or Secretary of State will take the final approval decision.

The key purpose of the CAG is to promote and protect the interests of the patient whilst at the same time facilitating appropriate use of confidential patient information for purposes beyond direct patient care.

We have developed a series of FAQ sheets to help you to understand:

A paper has been published that sets out how CAG approaches key considerations when providing advice.

A further position paper seeks to provide guidance to potential applicants on the relevance of non-response to a future ‘s251′ application.


Section 251 and the HRA

Section 60 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 as re-enacted by Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006 allows the Secretary of State for Health to make regulations to set aside the common law duty of confidentiality for defined medical purposes. The HRA took on responsibility for Section 251 in April 2013, establishing the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) function.