A183: Consenting for chemotherapy: do patients understand the aims of their treatment?
There is a legal requirement to obtain written informed consent from patients prior to starting them on chemotherapy in Scotland, as outlined in the Scottish Government's Chief Executive Letter, CEL30 (2012). Patients must be provided with clear information about the aims and risks of chemotherapy and be given adequate time to consider their options before agreeing to treatment. This audit aimed to assess compliance with the legal requirements and assess patients understanding of the aims of their treatment.
Questionnaires were provided to patients undergoing chemotherapy over a 6 week period in the Edinburgh Cancer Centre (ECC). All data was anonymised. Results were collated.
93 patients participated in the study. All had signed consent. Of these there were 85 complete questionnaires (20 undergoing radical/curative chemotherapy; 20 adjuvant; 45 palliative). 81/85(95%) patients felt they had been given clear information about the risks/benefits of chemotherapy. In 73/85(86%) there was documentation that written information had been provided. 86% of patients were aware they could withdraw consent any time. Doctors described aims of chemotherapy in lay terms (33/85 patients) or medical terms (52/85 patients). When lay terms were used 88% patients understood the aims of their treatment compared to only 58% patients when medical terms were used.
The results suggest good compliance of the ECC with CEL30(2012). However, although most doctors used medical terminology, patients understood the aims of chemotherapy better when it was described in lay terminology. As understanding the intent of treatment is key to informed consent, using lay terminology and providing patients with a copy of their chemotherapy consent form may improve this process.