We’re reviewing our guidance on consent. At this early stage of the review, we’re asking doctors, healthcare professionals and stakeholder organisations to complete a short online survey about the guidance, before 9 January 2017.

Christine Buicke, Policy Manager in our Standards and Ethics team, explains the questions we’re most frequently asked about consent and how you can influence the development of our new guidance by taking part in our survey.

Our consent guidance clearly outlines that we expect doctors to work in partnership with patients. This includes focusing on a patient’s individual circumstances when explaining – in a balanced way – the benefits and risks of what’s involved in any proposed care or treatment.

But we know, from our ethical enquiries work, that it can be challenging to apply ‘best practice’ in day-to-day medical practice. We also understand these challenges sit within the wider picture of the medical profession throughout the UK feeling under pressure.

What questions do we receive about consent?

We recently published a hot topic on our website to answer the most common ethical enquiries we receive about consent, including:

  • How much information to give to patients?
  • How to tell if a patient has capacity to make a decision?
  • How doctors can ensure a patient has understood information and if a signed consent form is enough?
  • How a doctor can protect themselves from legal or GMC action?

We’re also regularly asked if a Supreme Court case from 2015 – often referred to as the Montgomery case – has any impact on our guidance.

If you’d like to find out more about the implications of the judgement, you can read this blog by Mary Agnew, our Assistant Director for Standards – the Supreme Court endorsed the approach taken in our guidance, and in our view the judgment brings the law up-to-date with good medical practice.

As part of our work to review and redraft our consent guidance, we’ve recently launched a survey to seek views on the current guidance. We hope the survey will also provide us with some information about how widely the medical profession is concerned about the issues raised by the Montgomery case.


Why survey?

When we start to review guidance we often survey doctors and stakeholders to capture a wide range of views on the challenges of current practice.  We then use this information to help inform our work with experts, and a comprehensive programme of policy development.

Although we often receive questions and comments from doctors about consent, we wanted to understand more about how the current guidance is used, and applied in practice. We know doctors in different specialties and healthcare settings can face varying challenges in relation to consent, so it’s important that our work to review the guidance seeks as many views as possible. We want to make sure the future guidance will be as clear, helpful and accessible, as possible.

Our survey on the current consent guidance is open until 9 January – it’s only nine questions in length, and shouldn’t take long to complete.

We’d really value your comments. You can also let us know your thoughts about the guidance by contacting consent@gmc-uk.org

If you want to re-familiarise yourself with our guidance before completing the survey, you can read it on our website, by downloading our brand new app, my GMP or by downloading the consent e-book.

What happens next?

We’ll use feedback from the survey to help inform our work during the review period, which we expect to take place throughout 2017. We’ll also commission research, and survey other groups interested, and impacted, by the guidance, including patients.

We’ll then work to develop a new draft of the guidance, with input from a group of experts representing legal, medical, health and social care, and patient backgrounds.  During this period, we’ll continue to update the profession and the public, to seek views and feedback on our progress.

Towards the end of 2017, or in early 2018, we’ll hold a public consultation on the revised guidance. You can keep up-to-date with our work to review the guidance on our dedicated webpages.

Related posts

Mary Agnew, Assistant Director for Standards, outlines the implications of the Montgomery judgement when making decisions together.

Mary Agnew, Assistant Director for Standards, discusses confidentiality and disclosing information to protect others.