This guidance does not come into effect until 9 November 2020
Please continue to follow our existing guidance until then.

Decision making and consent

We’ve published our updated Decision making and consent guidance, which comes into effect on 9 November 2020.

Our guidance will support doctors to practise shared decision making and help their patients to make healthcare decisions that are right for them. 

Easier to apply in everyday practice

Obtaining patients’ consent needn’t be a formal, time-consuming process. We’ve updated our guidance so it’s easier to apply in everyday practice. New features include:

  • a focus on taking a proportionate approach, acknowledging not every paragraph of the guidance will be relevant to every decision
  • seven key principles which summarise the guidance
  • a new section to help doctors find out what matters to patients so they can share relevant information to help them decide between viable options
  • suggestions for how other members of the healthcare team can support decision making.

Shared decision making and consent are fundamental to good medical practice. Getting this right can empower patients, which helps to improve health outcomes, patient experience and reduce complaints.

Watch our seven key principles summary video

Reflecting the realities of modern practice

We know that the coronavirus pandemic has created new and ongoing challenges for doctors. Good practice in shared decision making is more important than ever, with the increase in remote consultations and other changes to the way care is delivered.

Our guidance reflects the realities and pressures of modern practice. It focuses on the quality of ongoing dialogue between patient and doctor.

Why we've updated this guidance

We published our current guidance in 2008. The underlying principles of our guidance remain sound but, medical practice, the law around consent, the healthcare environment and the doctor-patient relationship has changed over time. 

We’ve updated the guidance following an extensive consultation.  We heard from nearly 600 doctors, patient groups, employers and experts.

We’re grateful to members of our task and finish group – chaired by Professor Deborah Bowman, Professor of Medical Ethics and Law at St George’s, University of London, for their dedication and commitment to developing the updated guidance.