Do we achieve the Montgomery standard for consent in orthopaedic surgery?

Do we achieve the Montgomery standard for consent in orthopaedic surgery?
Xenia N Tonge, Henry Crouch-Smith, Vijay Bhalaik, William D Harrison
British Journal of Hospital Medicine, 21 April 2021
The Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board (2015) case set a precedent that has driven the modernisation of consenting practice. Failure to demonstrate informed consent is a common source of litigation. This quality improvement project aimed to provide pragmatic guidance for surgeons on consent and to improve the patient experience during decision making.
Elective orthopaedic patients were assessed and the quality of documented consent was recorded. Data were collected over two discrete cycles, with cycle 1 used as a baseline in practice. The following criteria were reviewed: grade of consenting clinician, alternative treatment options, description of specific risks, place and timing of consent and whether the patient received written information or a copied clinic letter. Cycle 1 results were presented to clinicians; a teaching session was provided for clinicians on the standard of consent expected and implementation of a change in practice was established with a re-audit in cycle 2.
There were 111 patients included in cycle 1, and 96 patients in cycle 2. Consent was undertaken mostly by consultants (54%). Specific patient risks were documented in 50% of patients in cycle 1 and 60% in cycle 2. Risks associated with a specific procedure were documented in 42% in cycle 1 and 76% in cycle 2, alternative options in 48% (cycle 1) and 66% (cycle 2). A total of 14% of patients in cycle 1 and 8% in cycle 2 had documented written information provision. Copied letters to patients was only seen in 12% of all cycles. Documentation from dedicated consenting clinics outperformed standard clinics.
Highlighting poor documentation habits and refining departmental education can lead to improvements in practice. The use of consenting clinics should be considered and clinicians should individually reflect on how to address their own shortcomings. Other units should strongly consider a similar audit. This article provides stepwise advice to improve consent and specifics from which to audit.

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