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Coronavirus

COVID and consent

Sir, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, patients undergoing invasive procedures were subject to confirming their consent through written means, a process which is considered common within surgical fields.1 The guidance issued by the FGDP on 1 June suggested a move towards provision of 'digital packs' and it seems many standard operating procedures (SOPs) being issued by practices include the provision of digital information packs with consent forms to patients.2

Patients being issued consent forms to complete on their own may require additional support in order to ensure their validity so that consent is maintained and not overlooked, in light of the new working protocols the profession faces. Furthermore, in cases where patients are being triaged remotely, a complete exam may not be possible prior to execution of treatment: a key difference which has to be considered when exploring the options for consultation and delivery of clinical information.3

There is a risk due to patients' comprehension of the intended procedure and the lack of opportunity to fully appreciate or discuss the risks and benefits. Additionally, the change from a face-to-face consultation and 'cooling-off' period, as is the case with the gold-standard two stage consent, is likely to be affected. There is also a risk of clinicians not engaging with such measures which could be viewed as a non-compliant attitude to SOPs and guidelines, which although essential to good practice have come to be a burden to many.

References

  1. 1.

    Royal College of Surgeons of England. 3.5.1 Consent. Available at: https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/standards-and-research/gsp/domain-3/3-5-1-consent/ (accessed June 2020).

  2. 2.

    FGDP(UK). Implications of COVID-19 for the safe management of general dental practice - a practical guide. Available at: https://www.fgdp.org.uk/implications-covid-19-safe-management-general-dental-practice-practical-guide (accessed June 2020).

  3. 3.

    General Medical Council. Remote consultations. Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/ethical-guidance/ethical-hub/remote-consultations (accessed June 2020)

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Correspondence to S. Stagnell or R. Moore.

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Stagnell, S., Moore, R. COVID and consent. Br Dent J 229, 4 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-020-1903-1

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