It is your right to be involved in making choices about your care. People often find they are happier with their care, and more likely to stick with any treatments or care plans, when they make decisions jointly with their health or care professional.
To make a decision, you need to know what your options are and what might happen if you don’t want any treatment or care. Your health or care professionals should explain what might work for you – some options may not be suitable.
You need to have information about the pros and cons of the options. This must be easy for you to understand.
Your health and care professionals need to know what matters to you – no two people are the same and they should listen carefully to your views and concerns.
You and your health or care professionals need time to talk through what you want to get out of any treatments or care and any worries or questions you have.
Before you see your health or care professional
- Write down any questions you want to ask.
- Think about what you want to get out of your care. It could be things like improving symptoms, taking fewer medicines or staying independent.
- Ask for an interpreter or other help to communicate if you need to.
- Ask a friend or family member to come with you, if you like.
When you see your health or care professional
- Ask if you need more information or you don't understand something.
- Let them know if you need information in a different way, such as large print or easy read, or if you need someone to help you understand what is being said.
- If you don't understand any words, ask for them to be written down and explained.
- Write things down, or ask a friend or family member to take notes.
- Check you know what should happen next, and when. Write it down.
- Find out who to contact if you have any problems or questions.
- Ask for copies of letters written about you - you are entitled to see these.
Involving other people
Family and carers should also be involved in decisions about your care if you want them to be. They should be given their own information and support.
If you are under 16, a parent or someone with legal responsibility for you needs to agree to any treatment or care (give consent). Sometimes young people under 16 can give their own consent if it is clear that they fully understand what is involved. Even when parents give consent for you, you should still be involved in the discussions.
When you can't give consent
There are times when it is not possible, or in the best interests of the person, to agree treatments or care with them. These are:
- In an emergency when a health or care professional needs to act straightaway.
- When someone isn't able to understand a particular issue or isn't able to make decisions for themselves (this is called lacking 'capacity').
- When people are being treated under some sections of the Mental Health Act.
Professionals follow strict rules in these situations.
There is more information about giving consent, making decisions in health and social care and mental capacity on NHS Choices.
Guidance and advice for people using health and care services
Take a look at all of the guidance and advice we’ve produced to help to improve people’s experience of health and social care services.