Who is responsible for Seeking Consent

The Healthcare professional carrying out the procedure is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the patient is genuinely consenting to what is being done: It is they who will be held responsible in law if this is challenged later.

North Devon Healthcare Trust has produced a “Consent” policy, the purpose of this document is to ensure that the Trust meets nationally recognised best practice for consent, including the NHS Litigation Authority’s Risk Management Standards for Acute Trusts. The policy applies to all Trust staff.

This policy will ensure:

  • Staff are aware of their obligations around obtaining consent in line with nationally recognised best practice
  • Valid consent to treatment is central to healthcare provided within the Trust

Where oral or non-verbal consent is being sought at the point the procedure will be carried out, this will naturally be done by the health professional responsible.  However, team work is a crucial part of the way the NHS operations and where written consent is being sought it may be appropriate for other members of the  team to participate in the process of seeking consent.

Completing Consent Forms

The standard consent form provides space for a health professional to provide information to patients and to sign confirming that they have done so.  The health professional providing the information must be competent to do so, either because they themselves carry out the procedure or because the have received specialist training in advising patients about this procedure, have been assessed, are aware of their own knowledge limitations and are subject to audit.

If the patient signs the form in advance of the procedure (for example in out –patient or at a pre-assessment clinic), a health professional involved in their care on the day should sign the form to confirm that the patient still wishes to go ahead and has any further questions answered.  It will be appropriate for any member of the healthcare team (for example a nurse admitting the patient for an elective procedure) to provide the second signature, as long as they have access to appropriate colleagues to answer questions they cannot handle themselves.

Responsibility of the Health Professional

It is a health professionals own responsibility:

  • To ensure that when they require colleagues to seek consent on their behalf they are confident that the colleague is competent to do so; and
  • To work within their own competence and not to agree to perform tasks which exceed that competence.

If you feel that you are being pressurised to seek consent when you do not feel competent to do so you should contact the Director of Nursing, Medical Director or Clinical Governance Manager.

Procedure-specific training on consent for staff to whom the consent process is delegated but who are not capable of performing the procedure is available, this would be an additional training session arranged between those involved i.e. the Consultant and the person who would be gaining consent.  Contact the Learning and Development department who can arrange this for you.

Last updated: September 2, 2010