Review of our Consent guidance

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. So we’ve updated the guidance to make sure that it is as clear and helpful as it can be, and is still relevant to doctors’ needs and consistent with the law.

The updated guidance focuses on the importance of meaningful dialogue, personalised communication about potential benefits and harms, and how doctors can support patients to make decisions with them about treatment and care.

The guidance takes account of 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 research and commissioned research with patients and with doctors to help understand what 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 and develop a redraft of the current 2008 guidance.

We then carried out a public consultation of the draft guidance between October 2018 and January 2019. During this time we held engagement events around the UK with key interest groups and received nearly 600 written responses to our consultation questionnaires,

With oversight from the Task and Finish group we redrafted the guidance again to take account of the evidence gathered throughout the consultation period. That draft was approved by Council in November 2019 and we’re preparing to publish in early February 2020.

What happens next?

The new guidance will come into effect three months after publication. Until that time the 2008 guidance is still effective.

We are exploring ways to represent the guidance visually to help doctors navigate it quickly. And we’re also looking at how we can help patients know what they can expect from their doctors.

If you would like more information about the review, please email us at: gmcconsent@gmc-uk.org.