There is a lot of information patients and their families will need before their treatment and during their stay in hospital.

Consent Before a doctor or healthcare professional examines or treats you, they need your consent. Sometimes you can simply tell them whether you agree with their suggestions, for example having your name displayed on the ‘patient at a glance’ information board. However, sometimes a written record of your decision is helpful – for example if your treatment involves sedation or general anaesthesia. You will then be asked to sign a consent form. If you later change your mind, you are entitled to withdraw consent – even after signing. 

What should I know before deciding? Health professionals must ensure you know enough to enable you to decide about treatment. They will write information on the consent form and offer you a copy to keep as well as discussing the choices of treatment with you. Although they may well recommend a particular option, you are free to choose another.  People’s attitudes vary on things like the amount of risk of pain they are prepared to accept. That goes for the amount of information too. If you would rather not know about certain aspects, discuss your worries with whoever is treating you. 

Should I ask questions? Always ask questions. As a reminder, you can write your questions down and bring them to your hospital appointments. The person you ask should do their best to answer, but if they don’t know, they should find someone else who is able to discuss your concerns. To support you and prompt questions, you may like to bring a friend or relative to your appointment.  Please ask if you would like someone independent to speak for you. 

Is there anything I should tell people? If there is any procedure you don’t want to happen, you should tell the people treating you. It is also important for them to know about any illnesses or allergies which you may have or have suffered from in the past. 

Can I find out more about giving consent? The Department of Health leaflet ‘Consent – What you have a right to expect’ is a detailed guide on consent in versions for adults, children, parents, carers/relatives and people with learning disabilities. Ask for one from your clinic or hospital.

Who is treating me? Amongst the health professionals treating you may be a ‘doctor in training’ – medically qualified, but now doing more specialist training. The range from recently qualified doctors to doctors almost ready to be consultants. They will only carry out procedures for which they have been appropriately trained. Someone senior will supervise – either in person accompanying a less experienced doctor in training or available to advise someone more experienced.

Will samples be taken? Some kinds of operations involve removing a part of the body such as a gall bladder or a tooth. 

You would always be told about this in advance. Other operations may mean taking samples as part of your care. These samples may be blood or small sections of tissue, for example of an unexplained lump.  Such samples may be further checked by other health professionals to ensure the best possible standards. Again, you should be told in advance if samples are likely to be taken.  

Photographs and Videos As part of your treatment some kind of photographic record maybe made – for example X-rays, clinical photographs or sometimes a video. You will always be told if this is going to happen. The photograph or recording will be kept with your notes and will be held in confidence as part of your medical record. This means that it will normally only be seen by those involved with your care or those who need to check the quality of care you have received.  The use of photographs and recordings is also extremely important for other NHS work, such as teaching or medical research. However, we will not use yours in a way that might allow you to be identified or recognised without your express permission. 

What if things don’t go as expected? Amongst the 25,000 operations taking place every day in England, sometimes things don’t go as they should. Although the doctor involved should inform you and your family, often the patient is the first to notice something amiss. If you are worried – for example about the after effects of an operation continuing much longer than you were told to expect – tell a health professional right away. Speak to your GP, or contact your clinic. 

What are the key things to remember? It is your decision. It is up to you to choose whether or not to consent to what is being proposed. Ask as many questions as you like, and remember to tell the team about anything that concerns you or about any medication, allergies or past history which might affect your general health. 

You may find it useful to ask your health professionals the following questions As well as giving you information, health professionals must listen and do their best to answer your questions.

  • What are the main treatment options?
  • What are the benefits of each of the options?
  • What are the risks, if any, of each option?
  • What are the success rates for different options – nationally, for this Trust or for the surgeon?
  • Why do you think an operation is necessary?
  • What are the risks if I decide to do nothing for the time being?
  • How can I expect to feel after the procedure?
  • When am I likely to be able to get back t work?
  • Will I need long term care?
  • Will my mobility be affected?
  • Will I still be able to drive?
  • Will it affect the kind of work I do?
  • Will it affect my personal/sexual relationship?
  • Will I be able to participate in my favourite sport/exercise?
  • Will I be able to follow my usual diet? 

Healthcare professionals should welcome your views and discuss any issues so they can work in partnership with you for the best outcomes.