Patient consent

A person must give permission before they receive any type of medical treatment, test or examination. Consent must be voluntary and informed – and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision. These terms are explained below.

Types of consent:

  • Voluntary – the decision to either consent or not to consent to treatment must be made by the person themselves, and must not be influenced by pressure from medical staff, family or friends.
  • Informed – the person must be given all of the information in terms of what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment doesn’t go ahead
  • Capacity – the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and they can use it to make an informed decision

If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected.

Should a person not have the capacity to make a decision about their treatment, and they haven’t appointed a lasting power of attorney (LPA), the healthcare professionals treating them may go ahead and give treatment if they believe it is in the person’s best interests. However, take all reasonable steps to seek advice from the patient’s friends or relatives before making the decision to proceed.

The webpage below explains what someone can do if they know their capacity to consent may be affected in the future.

Consent can be given:

  • Verbally – for example, by saying they’re happy to have the blood taken
  • In writing – for example, by signing a consent form for surgery

Someone may also give non-verbal consent, as long as they understand about the procedure – for example, when holding out an arm for a blood test. If they change their mind at any point before the procedure, the person is entitled to withdraw their previous consent.

Mark as Understood


Assessing capacity to consent

© Institute of Clinical Science and Technology (ICST) 2020