Making decisions

In order to make decisions about your care you must be given information in a way that you can understand.

If you need an interpreter, you can ask a member of staff to arrange this for you when you make an appointment.

Asking questions

You have the right to ask questions if you don't understand or you want to know more.

You may want to know:

  • why you're being offered the examination or treatment
  • what it'll involve
  • what the benefits are
  • whether there are any risks or side effects
  • how large or small the risks are
  • whether there are any alternatives
  • what may happen if you don't have the examination or treatment
  • whether you'll have to pay (for example, for dental treatment)
  • the name of the doctor who is responsible for your care

If the person asking for consent can't answer your questions, ask them if they can find out or get someone else who can help.

Information about your care or treatment

You may find it difficult to fully understand what you’ve been told about an examination or treatment. If you would like to take away written information to help you make a decision, you should say so.

Staff will give you information in a way that you can understand and in a format that meets your needs (audio format, British Sign Language or Easy Read).

Help and support

If you wish, someone can be with you when you are told about an examination or treatment. This could be a friend, relative, carer or independent advocate.

Making decisions

It's important to give you enough time to make your decision so you don't feel rushed. If you want time to think about your decision, you should say so.

Change of mind

You can change your mind about giving your consent at any time. It's important that you tell a member of staff if you do change your mind.

Refusing care or treatment

Normally you can refuse an examination or treatment at any time, even if this means your health, or the health of your unborn baby, may be harmed.

It's important that you understand what may happen to you if you decide not to have an examination or treatment.

You can't insist on a particular treatment if the NHS staff involved in your care don't think it will help you.

Refusing care as a young person

If you are under 16 and a health care professional believes you can make decisions for yourself, you can refuse an examination or treatment.

Find out more about young people and consent

Refusing care and mental illness

In most cases, if you have a mental health problem, you have the same right to consent to an examination or treatment as anyone else.

If you're being cared for under the Mental Health Act, you can be examined and treated for your mental illness or disorder without your consent if:

  • it's in your best interests
  • there's a significant risk to yourself or others if you didn't have treatment

The Scottish Government have produced a guide to consent for treatment for people with mental health disorders and their carers.

You can find more information about the rights of people with mental illness through The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

Teaching and research

When using NHS services, you should always be asked for your consent if there will be a student present during an examination or treatment.

You have a right to refuse and the standard of care you receive won't be affected.

Audio / visual recordings

You must be asked for your consent before any photos, videos or sound recordings of your examination or treatment are made for teaching purposes.

If you give consent, any patient identifiable information will be removed before using the recordings. Where this isn't possible, they must tell you before you make a decision.

If you change your mind and withdraw your consent, the photos or recordings will not be used and will be destroyed.

Medical research

If you are able to give consent, it's up to you to decide whether you want to take part in research.

Before making a decision, you should be given as much information about the research as you need and should ask questions if unsure.

You will usually be given written information about the research to take home to discuss with family and friends.

Consent and research

Before taking part in any research, you should be asked to sign a form showing that you give your consent.

They may give you a copy of this form to keep, and will also keep a copy in your health records.

Change of mind

You can change your mind at any time about taking part in research without giving a reason.

If you decide not to take part in the research, the standard of care you receive will not be affected.

Consent leaflets

This information is also available as a leaflet, which has been translated into different languages and formats - including audio, BSL, large print and easy-to-read.

Print-ready versions for professionals are also available.

Download Caring and Consent leaflet

Download Consent: It's Your Decision leaflet

Download Consent: Your Rights leaflet