Introduction. Informed consent, as the declaration of patients’ will, forms the basis of legality of medical procedures. A standard form based on the Department of Health model is widely used in the National Health Service (NHS). The aim of this audit process was to assess the current consent practice in comparison to the UK’s General Medical Council guidance and local policy and make any appropriate improvements.
Patients and methods. 254 adult consent forms were reviewed during the patients’ admission. Data collected included legible documentation, grade of health professional completing the consent form, providing additional written information, use of abbreviations, securing the consent form in the medical records and, providing a copy to the patient. After initial assessment, interventions in an attempt to improve adherence to guidelines were introduced. A repeat audit of a further set of 110 notes was completed to assess the effectiveness of our interventions.
Results. Our baseline assessment of 254 consent forms comprised of 198 (78%) elective and 56 (22%) emergency procedures. 87 (34%) consent forms were secure in the medical records. Grade of health professional was recorded in 211 (83%). 191 (75%) forms were legible. 48 (19%) patients were given copy of the consent. Only 24 (9%) patients were given additional written information. Abbreviations were used in 68 (27%) forms. Only 12 (5%) of consent forms met all criteria simultaneously.
Re-audit after intervention assessed 110 consent forms; 30 (27%) for elective and 80 (72%) for emergency procedures. 52 (47%) of consent forms were secure in medical records, grade of health professional was recorded in 94 (85%), 101 (75%) forms were legible, 42 (38%) patients received copy of consent and 41 (37%) of patients received additional written information.
Conclusion. Initially only 5% of consent forms completely met GMC guidelines. This demonstrates an alarmingly poor adherence to such guidance that plays a vital role in patient safety, patient ethics autonomy, not to mention potential medico-legal and clinical governance implications for surgical practice.
Our intervention has improved the quality of consenting within our hospital according to these guidelines. With these interventions set to continue and further develop, we expect that the quality of the consenting process will continue to provide patients with all that it is designed to.
KEY WORDS: Consent practice - Medical ethics - Physician patient relationship - Decision making.