About care in the NHS
All people using NHS services have a right to expect certain standards. Patients, service users (people using the NHS for mental health problems), carers and healthcare professionals have rights and responsibilities as set out in the NHS Constitution.
People using the NHS have the right to be involved in discussions and make informed decisions about their treatment and care with their healthcare team. They should be given relevant information that is suitable for them, and that explains the treatment and care in a way they can understand. Healthcare professionals should support people's choices wherever possible.
If during the course of their illness someone is not able to understand a particular issue or is not able to make decisions for themselves, healthcare professionals should follow the Department of Health's advice on consent, the code of practice for the Mental Capacity Act and the code of practice on deprivation of liberty safeguards. Information about the Act and consent issues is available from Carers Direct on NHS Choices. In Wales healthcare professionals should follow advice on consent from the Welsh Government.
Information for family and carers
Family and carers should be given their own information and support. They should also have the chance to be involved in decisions about the person's care, if the person agrees.
If someone is being treated under some sections of the Mental Health Act, healthcare professionals may override their decisions. Healthcare professionals should only do this in specific circumstances and if it is in the person's best interests. If this does happen, they should fully explain the reasons why, and the person's rights to appeal and advocacy.
Improving the experience of care
NICE has produced guidance to help improve the experience of care for adults using the NHS or NHS mental health services. It explains the information above in more detail.
To read more, go to NICE's information for the public on Experiencing good NHS care: what you can expect, and Improving your experience of mental health services in the NHS. This guidance does not cover children or young people under 16, or people being treated in an emergency situation.
Emergency care for adults
In an emergency, healthcare professionals may need to give treatment straightaway, without getting informed consent, when it is in someone's interests.
Children and young people, including emergency care for children and young people
For children under 16, parents or carers need to agree to treatment, unless it is clear that that the child fully understands the treatment and can give their own consent. In an emergency, if someone with parental responsibility cannot be contacted, healthcare professionals may need to give treatment straightaway, when it is in the child's best interests. Healthcare professionals should follow the Department of Health's guidelines on seeking consent: working with children.
This page was last updated: 04 March 2013