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Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG): research and non-research applications

You should apply to the CAG if you intend to access confidential patient information without consent in England and Wales. You will need to apply whether your project is managed as research or non-research.

Application guidance

We recommend that you refer to our application guidance and information on CAG considerations when undertaking a review of an application prior to completing an application.

Application forms and supporting documentation

  • All research applications should be prepared via IRAS. Supporting document requirements are set out in the checklist for the form.
  • All non-research applications should complete the section 251 form. You should refer to the annex to the form for the supporting document requirements

Please note that all documents should be provided in black and white and labelled appropriately with a clear title, version number and date. Application forms should not include embedded documents.

Pre-application assessment

The Confidentiality Advice Team (CAT) is happy to offer a service of pre-application assessment, upon request, prior to formal submission of an application.

This is an assessment of content and will aim to provide you with an indication as to any areas that may be queried further by the CAG, to advise where greater clarity may be required, to highlight key aspects specific to your application and to signpost to specific contacts to address points raised where necessary. In order to take advantage of this service, the following criteria applies:

  • The request for pre-application assessment must be submitted no later than 10 days prior to the date the assessment is required. We cannot guarantee to provide an assessment if the output is required sooner than 10 working days from receipt. If a response is required earlier than 10 working days, a request will be accepted only at the discretion of the CAT team capacity to deliver to that timescale.  Applicants are advised to plan accordingly and to make contact at an early stage.
  • A completed draft application is required. Advice cannot be provided against protocols or briefing papers alone as the questions in the form are necessary for a pre-application assessment to be undertaken. Patient leaflets and supporting information should also be provided so an assessment with the full context can be undertaken.

Additionally, for complex or novel applications, the CAT is happy to meet to discuss initial proposals as we have found it significantly aids submissions if consideration of CAG issues takes place at an early stage.  If the view is that the application raises significant issues, complex or novel issues and a conversation would be helpful, please contact the team via HRA.CAG@nhs.net.

Booking and submitting an application

Applications to CAG must be booked for review prior to submission. You should only contact the Confidentiality Advice Team (CAT) to book once an application is ready for submission as the application must be submitted within 24 hours of booking. If the application is not submitted within 24 hours the booking will be cancelled. We are unable to reserve spaces for future meetings to prevent delays to applicants who are ready to submit.  

The process to book an application is:

  1. Review the precedent set criteria prior to booking to determine if any apply to your application.
  2. Check the meeting and cut off dates on the HRA website. The dates advertised specify the date that bookings must be received by to be considered for inclusion onto the scheduled meeting.
  3. Call the Confidentiality Advice Team to book the application into the next available meeting.
  4. Email the fully completed application (for research applications please include pdf and xml versions of the IRAS form) and all supporting documents to the CAT within 24 hours of booking. If the application is not submitted within this time period it will automatically be removed from the meeting agenda.

If you have any questions in relation to the process please contact the Confidentiality Advice Team.