Consultation: GMC Consent guidance

26 November 2018

We’re consulting on our revised Consent guidance which outlines what doctors should consider when discussing treatment and care with patients. 

The updated guidance focuses on the importance of communication, personalised conversations, and doctors and patients making decisions about treatment and care together.

We’ve restructured it and made it clearer, so it’s easier for doctors to apply in practice. And we’ve provided more advice, including steps to follow when making decisions in different circumstances.

The guidance reflects the law, policy and healthcare settings in all four countries of the UK.

Tell us what matters to you

The consultation is open until Wednesday 23 January 2019 and there are several ways you can take part.

Accessing the consultation in other languages and formats

We can provide paper copies and other formats (such as large print) on request. The consultation documents are also available in Welsh.

Please email for further details.


If you have any questions about the review or consultation please contact our Consent review team on or 020 7189 5404.

If you’d like to submit a consultation response in hardcopy please send it to: Consent Review Team, General Medical Council, 350 Euston Road, London NW1 3JN.

What have we done so far?

We’ve gathered evidence through our own and commissioned research as well as engagement, to understand what issues to address.

We’ve worked with our Task and Finish group who provided expert input from a legal, medical, health, social care and patient perspective to review the evidence.

We’ve now redrafted our guidance to:

  • focus on how doctors can support patient decision making and involve patients in decisions about their care as far as possible
  • focus on the importance of doctors finding out what is meaningful for their patients and helping them explore the different options
  • include practical suggestions and examples to explain how the principles apply
  • make it more accessible by referring less to the law and more to the principles on which the law is based.

Why are we updating the guidance?

Good consent practice is at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship, but we know it’s sometimes challenging to get this right. Our guidance sets out good practice principles for making decisions about care, from the treatment of minor conditions to major interventions with significant risks or side effects.

Since it was last published in 2008, there have been shifts in the legal, policy and workplace environments. Doctors are telling us that increasing pressures and demands on their practice can make it difficult to seek and record a patient’s consent in line with our guidance and the law.

We want to support doctors and patients to have meaningful conversations and to make shared decisions. Therefore we have updated the guidance to ensure that it is still clear and helpful, relevant to doctors’ needs, and consistent with the law.

We want the final guidance to be shaped by doctors on the medical front line, patients, and healthcare organisations. It’s therefore vital that we hear as many views as possible.

Radio: Controlling people

17 October 2011

BBC World Service, available indefinitely as a podcast or listen online via the iPlayer

From the programme’s website: “The world’s population is due to reach seven billion people this year, and by around 2050 it could grow by yet another two billion.

Using India as an exemplar, Professor Matthew Connelly of Columbia University, New York, documents a global campaign that began with the best humanitarian ideals, but which led to authoritarian control over some of the world’s poorest citizens.

He uncovers a story of tragic mistakes and sometimes terrible human rights abuses, and shows how we will be living with the consequences for decades to come.”

TV: Barbara Harris on Hardtalk

12 August 2010

Available on iPlayer until 23.59 on 12 August 2010. There is also a clip on the BBC News website.

Barbara Harris of Project Prevention talks to Stephen Sackur: “Project Prevention, founded by Barbara Harris, offers cash to drug addicts prepared to accept sterilisation or long term contraception. It has raised a storm of criticism in the US. Is Project Prevention little more than eugenics dressed up in a cloak of compassion?”

Radio: Taking a Stand on financial incentives for long-term contraception and sterilisation

9 February 2010

BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 9 February, 9am or 9.30pm, available indefinitely via the iPlayer.

“Fergal Keane talks to Barbara Harris, whose organisation pays drug- and alcohol-addicted women to take long-term contraception.

Barbara’s experience of fostering babies born to those addicted to drugs and alcohol led her to one conclusion: that these women should be offered financial inducement to be sterilised, or given long-term contraception to stop them having children they are unable to care for. Founded over a decade ago in the United States, her organisation, Project Prevention, has so far made payments to over 3,000 women.”

Radio: Inside the Ethics Committee – Phobia

14 July 2009

BBC Radio 4, Thursday July 16th at 9am, repeated at 9pm. Available after broadcast via the iPlayer.

“Joan Bakewell is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the ethical dilemmas facing patients and their medical teams across the country.

Chris has kidney cancer and urgently needs an operation to remove the kidney. Without surgery, the cancer could spread and will almost certainly kill him. He has a wife and a young family. But as the operation approaches, Chris cancels; he is terrified of going under anaesthetic. His surgeon offers him another date, and then another, but each time Chris cancels. Five months down the line, the surgeon is extremely worried that Chris’s cancer could have spread. But he is under pressure; each time Chris misses an operation, half a day of operating time – a fully-staffed operating theatre session – is wasted.

What is the surgeon’s duty of care to a patient who is refusing a potentially life saving operation? What is a reasonable degree of persuasion for the surgeon to use? What about Chris’s rights? Given that he has a severe phobia, does he have the capacity to refuse a potentially life-saving operation? And what about his responsibilities; is it fair to keep diverting resources away from other patients in this way? Joan Bakewell is joined by a panel of experts to dicuss the complex ethical issues arising from the case.

The Panel

Deborah Bowman, Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics and Law at St George’s Hospital University of London

Professor Paul Salkovskis, Clinical Psychologist and a leading specialist in phobia at King’s College London, Institute Of Psychiatry

Dr Steven Reid, Consultant Psychiatrist at St Mary’s Hospital London

Vassilios Papalois, Transplant and General Surgeon at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust”