Informed consent, is a process that is currently a conundrum for all who engage in working with service users. Largely due to the growth in legal cases following extensive media investigations and plethora of legal “no win no fee” websites. Whatever the circumstances, the relationship between the service user and professional will always be one of informed consent.
In practice, the nature of informed consent is placed in the hands of the health and social care professional who, is instructed to ensure that service users have sufficient information in regards to process and procedures; are fully competence to make a personal judgement (or some other person holds that right in law ) and voluntarily make that informed choice for all aspects of their care. The legal requirements for such undertaking is a crucial part of the ‘consent’ process’; the Mental Capacity Act 2005; and other notable legal frameworks, provide, governance at the point of delivery, ensuring the service user’s best interests are both served and fully informed.
The gravity of non-compliance in this perhaps routine area of health and social care has caused in recent years, a number of high profile legal claims. The main focus of which, has largely arisen from failure to provide correct advice to the service user, prior to process and/or procedures. Technology equally has had a significant part to play, as patients are able to access optimum information from the worldwide web, prior to a process or, procedures and in some small cases, may be better informed than the professional!
This new and growing source of service user information, can in part cause concerns for the professionals in that the: ‘bench mark’ standard of care in recent years, has been based upon the Bolam test 1957; which is now, widely used to assess professional negligence, for example: “A doctor [health & social care professional] is not guilty of negligence, if s/he has acted in accordance with a practice accepted as proper by a reasonable body of men [women] skilled in that particular art” Therefore, health and social care professionals at all career levels are, perhaps in part, more cautious, in ensuring consent procedures, largely due to their own benchmark, being used as a legal paradigm in favour of the service user. The conundrum, for the professional, will be the balance of good practice, while maintaining robust administration of ‘informed consent’.
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