Regulating doctors, ensuring good medical practice

Consent guidance: patients and doctors making decisions together

About the guidance

This guidance expands on Good medical practice, which says doctors need to be satisfied that they have consent from a patient, or other valid authority, before

  • undertaking any examination or investigation
  • providing treatment, or
  • involving patients in teaching and research.

This guidance

  • sets out the principles on which good clinical decisions should be based
  • provides a framework for good practice that covers the various situations that doctors may face in the course of their work.

It concentrates on decision-making in the context of investigations or treatment; but the principles apply more widely, including decisions on taking part in research, and decisions at the end of life. More detailed advice on these matters is provided in our guidance on research and end of life care.

For guidance on doctors’ responsibilities to protect or disclose personal information about patients, please see Confidentiality (2009).

As the law relating to decision-making and consent - particularly for patients who lack capacity - varies across the UK, doctors need to understand the law as it applies where they work (see paragraphs 62-63). This guidance takes account of, and is consistent with, current law across the UK. The legal annex gives more detail about relevant common law and legislation, and links to further information.

Using the online version of Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together (2008)

You can navigate through the guidance page by page using the links at the foot of each page, or browse for something more specific through the Contents page.

Download the guidance