Consent means an agreement. In a health setting, you must give consent before a doctor, nurse or any other health professional can examine or treat you.
Who can give consent?
You can give consent if you can:
- make decisions for yourself
- understand what is involved
- can think clearly about the advantages and disadvantages of different actions
You must be given enough information and time to make up your own mind without pressure from other people.
Who cannot give consent?
If you feel you cannot give consent, it is called 'incapacity'.
If your incapacity is because of intoxication from drugs or alcohol, a health professional may be able to treat you without consent, if this is in your best interests.
If your incapacity is because of a mental disorder, someone else may be able to give consent for you.
When can someone else give consent?
Someone else can give consent for you if:
- you have given them welfare power of attorney with the power to consent to treatment
- a court has given them a welfare guardianship order with the power to consent to treatment
- a court has given them a welfare intervention order specifically for the treatment, and the treatment is needed only for a short time
Doctors can also treat you if there is no one who can give consent on your behalf, and the treatment will benefit you.
Young people and consent
If you are under 16, someone with parental responsibility can give consent for you if you can't give it yourself.
Find out more about young people and consent
How to give consent
You will usually be asked to say whether you agree to any examination or treatment.
If the examination or treatment is complicated, for example an operation, you may be asked to sign a form showing you agree to it.
Consent in an emergency
In the event of an emergency, doctors can treat you without your consent if it is necessary to save your life or stop you suffering more serious harm.
Consent for using personal health information
The NHS must keep your personal health information confidential. You should be involved in decisions about how your health information is used and shared.
Find out how the NHS keeps your personal information confidential
Unhappy with a decision
If you're unhappy with how involved you have been in decisions about your health you should first talk to a member of staff involved in your care. If you're still unhappy, you can make a formal complaint.
Find out more about giving feedback and making complaints about a decision