Communication and involving you

The Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities (the ‘charter’) summarises what you’re entitled to when you:

  • use NHS services
  • receive NHS care in Scotland

It also covers what you can do if you feel that your rights have not been respected.

Communication and involving you

The ‘Communication and involving’ section of the charter summarises your rights when communicating with the NHS.

Communication and information

When using NHS services, you should be told about:

  • your health
  • any care you may need
  • the names of the NHS staff responsible for your care
  • how to manage your condition
  • any medicines you need to take
  • possible side-effects of any medication you need
  • the risks and benefits of any treatments
  • how long you’ll wait if you have to go to hospital for treatment

You should be provided with information in a way that you can understand and that meets your needs.

When using NHS services, if there’s anything you don’t understand about your condition or treatment you should:

  • ask staff to explain
  • tell staff that you need or want more information

If you’re about to leave hospital, NHS staff will write to your GP about your stay in hospital. You can request to see this letter or be provided with a copy.

Communication support

You have the right to be provided with communication equipment or support in health services, hospital, the community or at home.

Communication equipment and support can include:

  • the provision of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) equipment
  • someone else present at an appointment
  • an interpreter or a sign-language interpreter, or other communication support
  • an independent advocate if you have a mental health disorder
  • a hospital chaplain
  • transport to get to a hospital or clinic appointment

If you require an interpreter, a sign-language interpreter or AAC equipment, NHS staff can arrange this for you, if you let them know beforehand.

You can find out what support services are available to you through the Patient Advice and Support Service (PASS)

Further support if you have a mental disorder

In terms of the charter, mental disorder means any mental illness, personality disorder or learning disability, as defined by the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.

You have the right to receive support from an independent advocate. This is a representative who helps you to express your views and make informed decisions. Your mental health officer can arrange this for you.

You can ask NHS staff about help to support you if you have difficulty making and keeping appointments.

For more information read the Rights in Mind booklet.

Making decisions

When using NHS services, you should be given all the information and time you need to make decisions about your health and care.

You can ask for a second opinion at any time during your care and give preferences about future treatment. These preferences will be taken into account if you can’t make decisions for yourself in the future.

Support when making decisions

You can ask for help and support when making decisions about your healthcare.

When using the NHS services, you can have someone else present at appointments to support you or help you express your views.

Further information for:

Refusing care or treatment

When using NHS services, if you can understand the information you’re given, and are capable of making decisions about your care, you can accept or refuse:

  • treatment
  • an examination
  • a test or investigation
  • screening

If you can’t make a decision for yourself someone else may be able to agree to treatment for you. If there is no-one who can make a decision on your behalf, doctors can treat you if it’s in your best interest.

Managing your condition

You should get support when managing your condition. You can expect to be given information about:

  • how and when to take your medication
  • how to control pain
  • how to use any equipment you’re provided with
  • how to access services that would help you

NHS staff must make sure you have been given clear information in a way that you can understand.

You should discuss your care and treatment as openly and honestly as possible. Tell NHS staff about anything that may be relevant to your care or treatment.

A healthy lifestyle

It’s important that you take responsibility for your own health and try to have a healthy lifestyle.

To do this you might consider:

Your responsibilities

When using NHS services, it is your responsibility to:

  • let staff know about any changes to your health
  • let staff know about any changes in your medication (including over the counter, herbal or alternative medication)
  • tell your GP and dentist if you change your name, address, phone number or email

The It’s OK to Ask leaflet provides further information on how to get the most out of your healthcare appointments.

Improving services

When using the NHS in Scotland, you should feel involved in any decisions about changes to NHS services.

NHS Scotland should make the process for decision making open, honest and inclusive.

Each health board has information on public consultation and participation.

Last updated:
17 November 2023

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