Consent: giving permission for your child to have treatment

Consent means agreeing or giving permission for something to happen. There are various ways you can give your consent and different circumstances in which we will ask you

We will ask you to give permission by signing a consent form when the treatment proposed is complex, has significant risks or may involve the need for a blood transfusion. In addition, we will ask for written consent for all procedures given with a general anaesthetic.

Please remember that we want you to have all the information you need to make a decision and feel you have made the right decision for your child.

  • Consent is the process of agreeing or giving permission for treatment. It should involve a joint discussion between you, your child and the clinical team.
  • Consent should be given voluntarily – no one should pressure you into giving permission.
  • Consent should be informed – that is, you should have all the information you need to make a balanced decision, including the risks, benefits and any alternatives (including doing nothing) to the proposed treatment.

Sometimes, we ask for your consent at an outpatient or pre-admission assessment appointment some time before the procedure is scheduled. In this case, we will always check that you are happy to continue on the day of admission.

In an emergency, where treatment is needed to prevent death or serious harm, we may try to contact the person with Parental Responsibility by telephone. This is one reason why it is so important to check that we have your current contact details. If this is not possible, we will continue to carry out treatment without asking for consent if it is in the best interests of your child.

Who can give consent?

Children and young people may be able to consent for themselves, depending on their age and capability or capacity for decision making.

Children under 16 years old can give consent for themselves if they are judged to be capable of making the decision. However, if your child under 16 years refuses treatment, this can be overruled by a person with Parental Responsibility, if the doctors think that is in their best interests. Someone with Parental Responsibility cannot overrule such an agreement to treatment made by your child under 16 years.

If your child under 16 years is judged incapable of making the decision, either due to their age, their emotional maturity or learning disabilities, then a person with Parental Responsibility can give their permission.

For young people aged 16 years or older, their ability to consent for themselves is judged by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – further information is available here.

If your child is aged 16 or 17 years old, the law states that they must be the person who is asked to give consent unless they are not able to the make the decision. You can only give consent on behalf of your 16 or 17 year old child if they are legally unable to consent for themselves.

Parents cannot give consent for young people aged 18 years or over, even if they cannot consent for themselves. In this situation, the proposed treatment will be discussed with you, but the treating team will make the final decision in the best interests of your child.

Our commitment to you

At GOSH, we want you to be sure about any decisions you make on behalf of your child. We promise that we will always try to:

  • Take you somewhere quiet
  • Make sure you have enough time – ask for more time if you need it
  • Give you as much information as you need – ask us to explain again if you do not understand
  • Make sure that the right person asks your permission

If you have any questions, please ask the healthcare professional asking for your consent. You can also contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (Pals) office if you have any questions. Visit their office in the main reception area, telephone them on 020 7829 7862 or email them at pals@gosh.nhs.uk.