Decision making and consent

Shared decision making and consent are fundamental to good medical practice. The General Medical Council has developed guidance explaining that the exchange of information between doctor and patient is essential to good decision making. Serious harm can result if patients are not listened to, or if they are not given the information they need, and time and support to understand it, so they can make informed decisions about their care.

The guidance, which came into effect on 9 November 2020, supports doctors in conversations with their patients, and helps them to be confident that they are sharing the information their patients need to make decisions that are right for them. Following this guidance will help doctors ensure they have informed consent from their patient.

It has advice on:

  • what you should tell a patient when talking about risks
  • what to do if your patient doesn’t want to hear information you think is relevant
  • what to do if your patient may lack capacity to make a decision
  • what you should record.

The seven principles of decision making and consent are:

  1. Right to be involved and supported.
  2. Focus on meaningful dialogue, i.e. specific to the individual.
  3. Right to be listened to and given information, time and support.
  4. What matters to patients.
  5. Presumption that all adults have capacity to make decisions.
  6. Those who lack capacity should make decisions with those close to them.
  7. Patients whose right to consent is affected by law are also supported.