Patient Consent to examination or treatment
It is a general legal and ethical principle that valid consent must be obtained before starting treatment or physical investigation, or providing personal care, for a patient.
This principle reflects the right of patients to determine what happens to their own bodies, and is a fundamental part of good practice. A health professional who does not respect this principle may be liable both to legal action by the patient and action by their professional body. Employing bodies may also be liable for the actions of their staff. Case law (“common law”) has established that touching a patient without valid consent may constitute the civil or criminal offence of battery. Furthermore, if health professionals fail to obtain proper and informed consent and the patient subsequently suffers harm as a result of treatment, this may be a factor in a claim of negligence against the health professional involved. Poor handling of the consent process may also result in complaints from patients through the NHS complaints procedure or to professional bodies.
The Reference Guide for Consent to Examination and Treatment (2008) provides guidance on the law as it is applied to Wales concerning consent to physical interventions on patients. It applies to any health professional whether they are employed by an NHS body and working in a hospital or providing treatment in the community or primary care setting. The document sets out the legal requirements for obtaining valid consent and gives guidance on the circumstances in which treatment may be given to a patient who cannot give his or her valid consent. It should be noted that this guidance is specific to consent for physical interventions on living patients, and the following areas are therefore not included:
In addition to the Reference Guide, there is a Good Practice in Consent Implementation Guide (2008), which aims to assist NHS organisations promote good practice in the way patients are asked to give their consent to treatment, care or research. It contains a revised version of the model consent policy and updated versions of the four consent forms, together with an accompanying information leaflet - About the consent form.
The four consent forms are:
English and Welsh language versions of the Reference Guide and Implementation Guide are accessible below. A PowerPoint presentation has also been developed, together with accompanying suggested speaking notes, to help with implementation of the revised gudiance. The presentation sets out the background, new legislation, consultation with the Consent Advisory Group, and explains the main changes to the 2002 guidance. It is designed to help organisations deliver the training that will be required for staff in their organisations who are involved in the giving of properly obtained and informed consent from patients.
Children and young people’s right to consent in health settings
On 22 April 2013, the Children’s Commissioner for
Last updated: 02/07/2013