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New GMC guidance: decision making and consent

The General Medical Council (GMC) has recently published their updated guidance on decision making and consent, which comes into effect on the 9th November 2020.

Click here for the guidance.

This is intended to make decision making and consent procedures easier to apply in everyday practice.

In particular, new features include:

  • A focus on taking a proportionate approach, acknowledging that not every paragraph of the guidance will be relevant to every decision.
  • 7 key principles which summarise the guidance (see the further details below).
  • A new section which helps doctors to 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.

The 7 key principles:

  1. All patients have the right to be involved in decision making if they are able.
  2. Decision making is an ongoing process focused on meaningful dialogue.
  3. All patients have the right to be listened to, and to be given the information they need to make a decision and the time and support they need to understand it.
  4. Doctors must try to find out what matters to patients so they can share relevant information about the proposed options and reasonable alternatives.
  5. Doctors must start from the presumption that all adult patients have capacity to make decisions about their treatment and care.
  6. The choice of treatment or care for patients who lack capacity must be of overall benefit to them, and decisions should be made in consultation with those who are close to them or advocating for them.
  7. Patients whose right to consent is affected by law should be supported to be involved in the decision-making process, and to exercise choice if possible.

The update is designed to reflect changes to medical practice, the law around consent, the healthcare environment and the doctor-patient relationship which have occurred since the original guidance was published in 2008.

If you require any further advice or information about the updated GMC guidance on consent, please get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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