It is a general legal and ethical principle that valid consent must be obtained before starting treatment or physical investigation, or providing personal care, for a patient. All NHS organisations are therefore required to have robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that patient consent is obtained appropriately.
This principle reflects the right of patients to determine what happens to their own bodies, and is a fundamental part of good practice. A health professional who does not respect this principle may be liable both to legal action by the patient and action by their professional body. Employing bodies may also be liable for the actions of their staff. Case law ("common law") has established that touching a patient without valid consent may constitute the civil or criminal offence of battery. Furthermore, if health professionals fail to obtain proper and informed consent and the patient subsequently suffers harm as a result of treatment, this may be a factor in a claim of negligence against the health professional involved. Poor handling of the consent process may also result in complaints from patients through the NHS complaints procedure or to professional bodies.