Patients should be allowed to decide what treatment is best for them, says the Royal College of Surgeons.

In recently published guidelines, the College has said that doctors should no longer act with a “paternalistic” attitude by telling patients what they need.

Instead patients should be informed of all the different options available – even if they could carry disadvantages – and then be allowed to decide for themselves what treatment to have.

The guidelines follow a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court last year when a diabetic woman experienced complications during the birth of her son. He was starved of oxygen and has been left with permanent brain damage.

She was awarded £5million compensation after she successfully argued that she would have chosen a C-section over a vaginal birth, had doctors made her aware of the risks associated with diabetes and childbirth.

“We can no longer be the judge of what we tell patients”

Leslie Hamilton, who created the new guidance, said: “We can no longer be the judge of what we tell patients. We feel that the NHS and doctors in general haven’t really woken up to this yet, which is why we are bringing out this guidance now.”

Patient safety charities also welcomed the changed. Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents said: “Patients are far too often having consent forms thrust in their face at the last minute.”

“Some doctors haven’t moved with the times and there is a culture issue that needs to be addressed. This is a welcome step in the right direction.”

Those who are already following the guidelines say their consultant times have doubled, something which could be difficult to manage in any already stretched NHS.

However, one cancer specialist has said that while the length of a typical consultation has increased, the rate of follow-up consultations has dramatically reduced.

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