You must give them all the information

The GMC guidance entitled ‘Decision-making and consent’ came into effect from 9 November and is intended to support doctors in having a meaningful discussion with their patients. The MDU’s Dr Kathryn Leask summarises the essential points for independent practitioners.

The GMC’s new consent guidance replaces ‘Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together’ – but it does not represent a radical departure. The need to involve patients in decisions about their own care and treatment remains at the heart of good practice. 

However, the latest guidance reflects changes to case law, notably the judgment in the Mont­gomery case. 

Consequently, there is even greater focus on understanding the concerns and priorities of individual patients, discussing the benefits and harms of treatment options, and answering their specific questions.

Consent forms can be helpful ‘but filling in a consent form isn’t a substitute for a meaningful dialogue tailored to the individual patient’s needs’.

The GMC also hopes that its new guidance will be easier for doctors to apply in everyday practice.

It notes that ‘obtaining a patient’s consent needn’t always be a formal, time-consuming process’ (paragraph 6) and the emphasis should be ‘on the quality of ongoing dialogue between patient and doctor’.