Patient and public attitudes towards consent and decision making

What were the key findings?

The research explored patient and public attitudes towards roles in decision making and consent, including good communication and how to support patient decision making.

Participants made some practical suggestions to help doctors improve shared decision making during appointments and consultations, including:

  • involve the patient: discuss a small number of options, offer the patient choice, provide a steer
  • tailor communications: check the patient’s communication needs, adapt communication and amount of information to suit the patient, make patients aware of option of interpreters
  • risks and benefits: use real life examples, discuss side effects
  • involving others: help explain information, provide practical and emotional support, but confirm the person’s role
  • information provision: use good visual aids, diagrams, pictures and models, avoid medical jargon, give patients information to take away such as leaflets
  • friendly approach: make eye contact, speak slowly, provide reassurance, invite questions.

Why did we commission this research?

This work supports the wider consultation on the GMC's Decision making and consent guidance which is being reviewed and updated. We wanted to explore patient and public attitudes towards consent and decision making with individuals from seldom-heard groups who may be less likely to engage in the wider consultation but may have specific issues around decision making and consent.

What did the research involve?

The research was qualitative and involved face-to-face in depth interviews and face-to-face and online group discussions with 100 people across England, Northern Ireland , Scotland and Wales. 

Have we carried out similar research with doctors?

At the beginning of the review we commissioned research exploring doctors’ attitudes to consent and the challenges they face when following our guidance in practice. Read the final report on doctors' attitudes to consent and shared decision making.

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