What is Consent and why is it important?
Consent is the giving of permission or agreement for a treatment, investigation, receipt or use of a service or participation in research or teaching. Consent involves a process of communication about the proposed intervention in which the person has received sufficient information to enable them to understand the nature, potential risks and benefits of the proposed intervention. Seeking consent should usually occur as an ongoing process rather than a one-off event.
Adults who have to engage with healthcare workers have a fundamental ethical and legal right to control their own lives, to make informed decisions on matters that relate to them and to decide what happens to their own bodies. It is therefore essential that valid consent is obtained for health and social care interventions. Unless specifically authorised to do so, acting without first seeking their consent may be violating their legal and constitutional rights and may result in civil or criminal proceedings.
We developed a short video about why consent matters. The video contains recordings of people who have used HSE services speaking about their experiences of consent in health and social care services.
What are the requirements for a valid consent?
For consent to be valid, the person must:
- Be making a voluntary choice i.e. must not be acting under duress; and
- Have received sufficient information in a comprehensible manner about the nature, potential risks and benefits of the proposed intervention, of any alternative intervention and of not receiving the intervention;
- Have the decision-making capacity to make the decision (even if requiring support to do so).
- The HSE National Consent Policy 2022 v1.2 provides guidance on how to proceed if a person’s capacity to decide about an intervention is in question or lacking.
The person must understand that they have a choice, including the choice to:
- Give consent;
- Refuse consent;
- Withdraw consent.
Duress refers to pressures or threats improperly imposed by others such that the person believes he or she has no alternative but to consent. ‘Consent’ obtained in this manner is not valid. However, this is distinct from the limitations on choice that illness can impose on persons.
What is the aim and scope of the HSE National Consent Policy 2022?
The HSE National Consent Policy 2022 provides one overarching policy to guide staff. The need for consent and the application of the general principles in this policy extends to all interventions conducted by or on behalf of the HSE with people in all locations. This includes social as well as healthcare interventions in hospitals, in the community, and in day, respite, and residential care settings.
The HSE National Consent Policy 2022 was published in March 2022 and is supported by an e-learning programme for all staff, which is hosted on HSeLanD.
Read the HSE National Consent Policy 2022 v1.2 (released 22 January 2024)
A standalone policy for Consent in Health and Social Care Research is available here
Latest news and upcoming events
The HSE National Consent Policy 2022 has been updated to incorporate the provisions of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, as amended. This updated policy v1.2 is now live and available on this website.
We have scheduled 2 online learning events to introduce this update to staff.
Session 1 from 22nd January is available to view here.
These are the presentations:
Key updates in HSE National Consent Policy Mary Donnelly
Shaun O'Keeffe slide deck 22.1.24
Session 2 from 29th January is available to view here
And this is the presentation:
New templates Appendices 6, 7, 8 and Q & A.
Easy-to-Read Version of HSE National Consent Policy 2022
In December 2022, we launched an Easy-to-read information campaign, which is important for people with intellectual disabilities and people with other conditions affecting how they process information and for staff who support them. We hope that the easy-to-read version of the HSE National Consent policy will help each person know their rights and make their own choices. Every adult should be presumed to have the capacity to consent on their own behalf and should be provided with relevant information in a way they can understand HSE National Consent
The launch event of the Easy-to-Read version includes contributions from a range of experts by experience. The link to the recording is here
Training and Resources
The HSE National Consent Policy e-learning programme was developed to support staff in applying the HSE National Consent Policy 2022 in practice. The programme contains two modules:
Module 1: General Principles is for all staff.
Module 2: Working with Children and Young People is an additional module for staff who work with children and young people.
It is available on HSeLanD by searching for ‘national consent policy’.
About this webpage
This webpage is from the HSE National Office for Human Rights and Equality Policy. It aims to present information and resources relevant to the HSE National Consent Policy 2022 to help healthcare workers implement the policy in their work.
To view launching events supporting the National Consent Policy 2022, please visit Resources and Webinars sections for further information.
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Who can I contact for more information?
Elaine McCaughley, Programme Lead, National Office for Human Rights and Equality Policy
Shem Romanowski, Policy Support Officer, National Office for Human Rights and Equality Policy