Consent and Participant Information Guidance

Principles of consent: Emergency Research (England and Wales)

From the here you can access guidance on the inclusion of both adults lacking capacity and children / young people in emergency research in England and Wales.

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Adults not able to consent for themselves in emergency Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (CTIMPs)

In the UK the law allows adults not able to consent for themselves to be recruited into Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (CTIMPs) without prior consent in emergency situations if:

  • Treatment needs to be given urgently;
  • It is also necessary to take urgent action to administer the drug (IMP) for the purposes of the trial;
  • It is not reasonably practicable to obtain consent from a legal representative;
  • The procedure is approved by a NHS Research Ethics Committee;
  • Consent is sought from a legal representative as soon as possible.

Adults recruited in such a manner may regain their capacity to give consent; for further guidance visit 'Principles> ALC(England and Wales)> Regain capacity'.

Adults not able to consent for themselves in other intrusive emergency research

In England and Wales the law allows adults not able to consent for themselves to be recruited into other intrusive research (i.e. research other than Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products) without prior advice from a consultee, in emergency situations if:

  • Treatment needs to be given urgently;
  • It is also necessary to take urgent action to administer the drug (IMP) for the purposes of the trial;
  • It is not reasonably practicable to seek advice from a consultee;
  • The procedure is approved by a NHS Research Ethics Committee; and
  • A consultee is consulted as soon as possible to seek advice on the participant's likely views and feelings.

Adults recruited in such a manner may regain their capacity to give consent; for further guidance visit 'Principles> ALC(England and Wales)> Regain capacity'.

Children / young people in emergency CTIMPs

The law allows children and young people (under the age of 16) to be recruited into Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (CTIMPs) without prior consent in emergency situations if:

  • Treatment needs to be given urgently;
  • It is also necessary to take urgent action to administer the drug (IMP) for the purposes of the trial;
  • It is not reasonably practicable to obtain consent from a legal representative;
  • The procedure is approved by a NHS Research Ethics Committee; and
  • Consent is sought from a person with parental responsibility or a legal representative as soon as possible.

Young people over the age of 16 are considered to be adults in terms of the law governing the conduct of clinical trials. For further guidance on adults not able to consent for themselves in Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products visit 'Principles> ALC(England and Wales)> CTIMPs'

Children / young people in other emergency research

Common law would appear to enable research involving children and young people in emergency situations without prior consent, if:

  • You first obtain NHS Research Ethics Committee approval, and
  • You cannot address the same research question by recruiting from a non-emergency environment, and
  • Your research is of potential benefit to the child / young person themselves, and
  • Someone with parental responsibility for the child / young person is informed about the research as soon as possible, and
  • Consent (and assent) is sought as soon as possible, and
  • You make clear to the child / young person or their parent (if the child / young person is not competent) that the child / young person can withdraw (or be withdrawn by their parent) at any time without penalty.

If you cannot guarantee a potential direct benefit, the law is unclear. In such a case, The Council of Europe recommends that you must be able to ensure that your research will benefit others with a similar condition, and the risk to participants is minimal.

You can return to the interactive map to explore legal principles in place in other parts of the UK.