Review of our Consent guidance

The public consultation on our revised Consent guidance which outlines what doctors should consider when discussing treatment and care with patients, has now closed.

Why are we updating the guidance?

Good consent practice is at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship, but we know it’s sometimes challenging to get this right. Our guidance sets out good practice principles for making decisions about care, from the treatment of minor conditions to major interventions with significant risks or side effects. 

Since it was last published in 2008, there have been shifts in the legal, policy and workplace environments. Doctors are telling us that increasing pressures and demands on their practice can make it difficult to seek and record a patient’s consent in line with our guidance and the law. 

We want to support doctors and patients to have meaningful conversations and to make shared decisions. Therefore we have updated the guidance to ensure that it is still clear and helpful, relevant to doctors’ needs, and consistent with the law. 

The updated guidance focuses on the importance of communication, personalised conversations, and doctors and patients making decisions about treatment and care together. 

We’ve restructured it and made it clearer, so it’s easier for doctors to apply in practice. And we’ve provided more advice, including steps to follow when making decisions in different circumstances.  

The guidance reflects the law, policy and healthcare settings in all four countries of the UK.

What have we done so far?

We've gathered evidence through our own and commissioned research as well as engagement, to understand what issues to address.

We’ve worked with our Task and Finish group who provided expert input from a legal, medical, health, social care and patient perspective to review the evidence.

We’ve now redrafted our guidance to:

  • focus on how doctors can support patient decision making and involve patients in decisions about their care as far as possible 
  • focus on the importance of doctors finding out what is meaningful for their patients and helping them explore the different options
  • include practical suggestions and examples to explain how the principles apply
  • make it more accessible by referring less to the law and more to the principles on which the law is based. 

What happens next?

We’re analysing the responses to the consultation and will present our findings to the Task and Finish Group and our Council with proposals for redrafting the guidance. We will aim to have final guidance ready to be published towards the end of 2019. 

But the process doesn’t end with publishing new guidance. We’re also developing learning materials – like decision tools and case studies – to help doctors apply it to their everyday practice. 

Questions?

If you have any questions about the review please contact our Consent review team on gmcconsent@gmc-uk.org or 020 7189 5404.