People are happier about their care when decisions are made together with their health or social care practitioner.

You're more likely to stick with treatments or care plans when making decisions jointly.

Guidance and advice

Our guidance and advice helps to improve people’s experience of health and social care services.

Your right to be involved

You can be as involved as you want to be in making decisions. You need to know what your options are and the positives and negatives of them. This information must be easy for you to understand.

Your health or social care practitioners need to know what matters to you. No two people are the same and they should listen carefully to your views and concerns.

Before you see your practitioner

  • Write down any questions you want to ask.
  • Think about what you want to get out of your care or support. This could be improving symptoms, taking fewer medicines or staying independent.
  • Find out about support for activities you might like to do.
  • You may be offered information to help you think about your options. Ask for extra support with this if you need it.
  • Ask for an interpreter or other help to communicate if you need to.
  • If you want to, ask a friend or family member to come with you.

When you see your practitioner

  • Talk about what is important to you and any worries you have.
  • Discuss options that might work for you. Some may not be suitable.
  • Discuss what might happen if you do not want any treatment or care, or you want to keep following a care plan you already have.
  • Ask if you need more information or if there is something you do not understand.
  • Let them know if you need information in a different way, such as large print or easy read.
  • Check you know what happens next, and when. Write it down or ask a friend or family member to take notes.
  • Take time before making your decision.
  • Find out who to contact if you have any problems or questions.
  • Ask for copies of any letters written about you.

Involving other people

Family and care givers can be involved in decisions about your care if you want them to be. They should be given their own information and support.

If you're under 16, a parent or someone with legal responsibility for you has to give consent to any treatment or care. Sometimes young people under 16 can give their own consent if it's clear that they fully understand what's involved.

Even when parents give consent for you, you should still be involved in the discussions.

When you cannot 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 social care practitioner needs to act straight away.
  • When someone cannot decide or make a decision by 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 on giving consent to treatment on the NHS website.

Working together

Our guidance highlights the importance of professionals working together with people to make decisions. In healthcare this is called shared decision making.

In social care, keeping people at the centre of decisions about their care is called person-centred care. Our guideline about improving people’s experience of social care explains more.