Supporting informed consent

It can be easier said than done regarding the right to give informed consent.

This right is particularly prominent in members’ policies covering Privacy, Child Protection and access to health treatment.  It is supported by the policy requirement for people to be given information in understandable ways.

But how do we ensure that people understand the information we provide or the form we ask them to sign? There will always be variables. The language, abilities, age and maturity of people we are working with will affect if and how information is understood. So will the nature and type of information and situation in which it is given.

But there are some general steps we can take to assist people to understand the information we give them or want them to know.

Steps to support understanding 

Plain language – Use plain and simple language and break down complexity. Avoid jargon and technical terms that can make it difficult for the average person to understand.

Translation – Offer and arrange for interpreters as necessary for verbal interactions; provide a translated version of the agreement, form or other information into the person’s primary language and ensure the translation is accurate.

Make it visual – Use aids such as diagrams, pictures, charts, or illustrations can help convey complex concepts. These can often make it easier for individuals to grasp the content.

Encourage and answer questions – invite questions, answer and provide further clarification as needed.

Allow time – people often need time to digest information gradually, discuss it with others and time to come back to you to discuss.

Documentation Offer a copy of the written form or agreement to the person in advance so that they can review it at their own pace and come prepared with questions.

Accessibility Support  Sse accessible formats and make provisions for Braille, large print, and digital text for screen readers, if necessary.

Simplify –  For complex information or if an agreement or form contains intricate or lengthy clausesbreak them down into simpler parts, explain each part separately and check understanding as you go.

Make it real – Offer real-life examples or scenarios to help make the information real and to show what it might mean in practice.  In this way, abstract concepts become much more tangible.

Proving Informed Consent

As a members of the Policy Place online service, most of you are subject to external audits and checks. It is therefore important that you document – the steps taken with people to assist their understanding of terms, information, agreement and to properly support them to make informed decisions.

There are many other aspects to the Informed Consent policy that need to be evidenced in individual files. But being able to show that staff are taking the steps needed to ensure people’s understanding oof information, forms etc is an important start.