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How much do emergency healthcare workers know about capacity and consent?
  1. Katharine Evans1,
  2. James Warner2,
  3. Elizabeth Jackson2
  1. 1Emergency Department, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, Cornwall, UK
  2. 2Central and North West London Mental Health National Health Service Trust, Paddington, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr K Evans
 89 Milehouse Road, Plymouth PL3 4AE, UK; kateevans1{at}


Aim: To assess knowledge of capacity and consent among emergency healthcare workers.

Design: A cross-sectional survey with a structured questionnaire.

Methods: 86 questionnaires were distributed and completed by 42 accident and emergency doctors, 21 accident and emergency nurses, and 23 emergency ambulance staff. Correct answers on assessing capacity to consent to or refuse treatment were given by 67% of the doctors and 10% of the nurses, but by none of the ambulance workers. 15% of all respondents wrongly believed that an adult who is found to have capacity can lawfully be treated against his or her will.

Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that emergency healthcare workers do not have adequate knowledge about how to assess capacity and treat people who either refuse treatment or lack capacity. It shows a need for further training among doctors, nurses and ambulance staff working in the emergency setting.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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