Our staff caring for you may need to ask your permission to perform a treatment, test or examination.
Helping you decide
The information on this page explains our consent policy. If there is anything you do not understand, please ask the staff caring for you. They'll be able to answer your questions or give you more information.
It's up to you whether you agree to the treatment or examination that is being planned.
What you can expect
Before a doctor, nurse or other health professional examines or treats you, they need you to agree to let them.
So we will:
- explain any planned treatment to you in a way you can understand
- involve you in all the decisions about your care or treatment
If you do not want to know about certain parts of your treatment, please tell us.
For most simple procedures, you will only need to say that you agree for us to go ahead.
For more complicated procedures we will ask you to sign a consent form confirming you agree. This includes any procedures that need:
- an anaesthetic
We will usually do this when you visit the outpatient clinic.
It is your right to have a copy of this form.
We will ask you to confirm that you wish to go ahead when you come for your procedure.
Asking for your consent
When we ask you to agree to any treatment or examination, staff caring for you will explain:
- the type and extent of the planned treatment
- the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment
- any alternative treatments that might be available
- any risks and side effects that are significant to you
- your right to change your mind and withdraw consent at any time
We may need to take your blood or small sections of tissue, for example of an unexplained lump, as part of your treatment. We will tell you if we need to take samples. We may use these samples for teaching and research. We will not use them in a way that can identify you unless we have your permission.
We sometimes use images, including x-rays, scans, photographs and videos, for teaching and research. Unless we have your permission, we will not publish or use them in a way that can identify you. If you have any concerns, please talk to the staff caring for you.
If you need more information
Please ask questions at any time.
If you're not sure about what you are being told, please tell us. We'll discuss the planned treatment or examination in more detail. It is not unusual for medical treatments to be explained more than once.
It's a good idea to ask a relative or friend, or your nurse, to be with you when your treatment is being explained. This will help you if you are talking about the treatment later.
You might find it helpful to write down any questions you want to ask. It's important that we know about your concerns so that we can answer any questions.
Our language support team can arrange for:
- an interpreter in the language you need
- a signer
For more information, please call 020 7188 8815.
Making your decision
Please tell us if you want time to think about what is being planned. Although we may recommend a treatment or examination, you can choose another. We cannot give a treatment to you if:
- it's not available
- it's not suitable for your care
Changing your mind
You can change your mind at any time, even if you have signed a consent form. Make sure you tell your doctor or the nurse in charge as soon as you change your mind. We'll record this in your medical notes so everyone is aware of your decision.
You do not have to give a reason for refusing treatment. It is helpful to tell the staff about your concerns so they can give you the best advice.
You may want to talk to a different doctor, nurse or health professional for another opinion. If you do, we will do our best to help you.
Who can give consent
If you are an adult (18 years old and over), only you can give consent for your treatment. Your relatives or next of kin cannot do this on your behalf.
If you are a young person (16 or 17 years old) you're also able to consent to your own treatment. Someone with parental responsibility could also give consent.
If you are unable to consent, for example because you are unconscious, we may decide to treat you. We'll discuss this with your family or those close to you. We'll consider their opinions with all other information. We must make a decision to act in your best interests.
Sometimes we may need to make decisions on behalf of an adult. For example, if someone is detained under the Mental Health Act.
There are some extra issues about consent in the case of children under 16 years of age. We will explain these to you if they apply.
If you have made an advance decision (sometimes known as a living will) you or your family should tell us as soon as possible. Details will be added to your medical notes, which will allow us to respect your wishes.
Any information we hold about you will be treated confidentially. We will use this information to give you the best possible care. It will also help us run and check the quality of our services.
We may use some of the information about you for research, but only after we have removed any details that can identify you. No information about you will be used in any way that can identify you unless we have asked for your permission.
Last updated: May 2022