National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR)

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National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR)

How to use the Register for medical research

What we need from you

Before your application can be considered, you will need to provide evidence that your study has ethical approval and, wherever possible, informed consent from all the patients you wish to include in your study.

Confidentiality issues will affect the way you identify the patients you wish to include in your study. The NHSCR takes its role of administering and protecting the sensitivity of health care data very seriously, working to the recommendations of the Caldicott Report and the Confidentiality and Security Advisory Group for Scotland.

Informed patient consent is ideal for any medical research study requiring flagging or follow up using the NHSCR. When studies involve large data sets this may be impractical. In these cases permission may be given if the Committee concludes that the proposal represents bona fide health research, appropriate ethical approval has been obtained and there would be a disproportionate effort to obtain consent for research. In addition, other approved privacy safeguards are applied when appropriate – especially that data are anonymised and/or aggregated to prevent any risk of indirect disclosure and that the researcher gives a written undertaking not to use any data provided to identify individuals.

Conducting research under the Adults with Incapacity Act 2000

In December 2009, the Privacy Advisory Committee in Scotland approved National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) to be used as a sampling frame. During consultation it was highlighted consideration should be given to adults (people over 16) who have impaired capacity and are unable to make decisions either temporarily or on an enduring basis. The Adults with Incapacity Act 2000 sets out the framework to help safeguard the welfare and finances of these individuals.

NHSCR take into account this group of people and the risks of excluding their views from research projects as well as the risk of engaging them in projects where ethical issues have not considered by the appropriate committee. NHSCR are fully aware that their data coverage will include adults with incapacity. However the NHSCR database, correctly does not allow us to identify these individuals who may be subject to protection under the Act. We therefore recommend if there is the potential for a person to fall into this category researchers to take responsible action by including as part of the patient information leaflet and or consent form appropriate wording which demonstrates clear paths for carers and adults to follow. Where researchers aim to include adults with impaired capacity they must seek prior ethical approval from the appropriate committee.

For our part we include a letter on behalf of the Registrar General of Scotland which outlines NHSCR’s role.