Consent guidance: How the guidance applies to you

This guidance is addressed to doctors, but may also help patients and the public understand what to expect of their doctors.

In this guidance the terms ‘you must’ and ‘you should’ are used in the following ways:

1. 'you must’ is used for an overriding duty or principle

2. ‘you should’ is used when we are providing an explanation of how you will meet the overriding duty

3. ‘you should’ is also used where the duty or principle will not apply in all situations or circumstances, or where there are factors outside your control that affect whether or how you can follow the guidance.

The guidance is not, and cannot be, exhaustive. So you should use your judgement to apply the principles it sets out to the situations you face in your own practice.

You must work in partnership with your patients. You should discuss with them their condition and treatment options in a way they can understand, and respect their right to make decisions about their care. You should see getting their consent as an important part of the process of discussion and decision-making, rather than as something that happens in isolation.

In deciding how much information to share with your patients you should take account of their wishes. The information you share should be in proportion to the nature of their condition, the complexity of the proposed investigation or treatment, and the seriousness of any potential side effects, complications or other risks.

Serious or persistent failure to follow this guidance will put your registration at risk. You must, therefore, be prepared to explain and justify your actions.

Download the guidance