Over a three-year period, the Medical Defence Union (MDU), the UK's leading medical defence organisation, has had over 1,000 contacts from its members about getting patient consent. Common queries include dealing with patients lacking capacity and advice on drafting statements in response to allegations of inadequate consent.
The figures were released to coincide with GMC guidance on consent, which is published today and comes into force on 9 November. The updated guidance, Decision making and consent, places greater emphasis on doctors and patients taking decisions together based on exchange of relevant information specific to the individual patient.
Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services, said:
"Consent issues are a regular feature of the MDU's in-tray and we welcome the updated GMC guidance. Obtaining consent is part of a continuing conversation with patients. The need for doctors to understand what is important to each individual patient has been emphasised in recent case law, so it is right that the guidance encompasses this.
"The circumstances of every doctor-patient interaction will be unique. In some cases, decision making and consent can be especially complex. It is important that doctors are able to approach both the patient and circumstance before them in a proportionate way using their professional judgement. The GMC has taken a positive step in this updated guidance by making it clear that not every paragraph will be relevant to every decision.
"The inclusion of seven key principles of decision making and consent is a helpful tool for doctors. Another welcome addition is that only serious or persistent failures to follow the guidance such as failures which also pose a risk to patient safety or public trust in doctors, will put a doctor's registration at risk. We are pleased to see this explicit reassurance included.
"Across the UK doctors continue to work under intense pressure - not least as the health system continues to meet the challenge of COVID-19. Having guidance that is readily and speedily accessible for busy doctors is more important than ever. We hope that the updated guidance from the GMC will provide support to doctors as they continue to care for their patients."
This page was correct at publication on 30/09/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.