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How will people know about my Advance Decision (Living Will)?

The healthcare professional treating you must take ‘practical and appropriate’ steps to find out if you’ve made an Advance Decision (Living Will). 

Advance Decisions are legally binding, so if a healthcare professional ignores an Advance Decision they could be taken to court. But it’s also your responsibility to make sure that any health professionals caring for you will know about your Advance Decision when it’s needed.

There’s currently no national register of Advance Decisions, so it’s very important that those close to you, your GP, and anyone else involved in your care, know that you’ve made one.

Ways to tell people about your Advance Decision (Living Will)

There are a few things you should do to make sure people are aware of your Advance Decision:

  • Ask your doctor to keep a copy of your Advance Decision with your medical records.
  • Give a copy of your Advance Decision to anyone who would be contacted in an emergency.
  • Give a copy of your Advance Decision to anyone else who is regularly involved in your care; for example, your consultant, carer or district nurse.
  • Ask your GP to add the fact that you have an Advance Decision to your Summary Care Record. This is an electronic record of important information about your health that is accessible to any health or care professional 24 hours a day. Details of your Advance Decision will only be added if you specifically ask your GP to do so.
  • Carry the ‘Notice of Advance Decision’ card (which comes with Compassion in Dying’s Advance Decision pack) or keep a copy of your Advance Decision on your person.
  • Join MedicAlert, who can provide jewellery and products that can direct emergency services and healthcare professionals to your Advance Decision. You can call them on 0800 581 420 or visit their website.

Electronic Palliative Care Co-ordination Systems (EPaCCS)

Electronic Palliative Care Systems (EPaCCS) are electronic systems used in some areas of England. They’re for people believed to be in, or near, the last year of life. They allow important information about people and their care plans to be accessed by different healthcare professionals.

A person’s EPaCCS record should include whether they have made an Advance Decision, the decisions within it, when it was made, and where a copy can be found. Some local healthcare providers are also able to upload and record a copy of the original document on their EPaCCS systems.

How will my wishes be known if I’m in an emergency?

If you’ve made an Advance Decision, you can speak to your local ambulance service to find out if they can record it on their system.

If you’re in an emergency, for example if you have an accident such as a fall, it’s likely that you’ll be treated by your local ambulance service. The type of the service they provide means that their staff are often required to make difficult decisions very quickly about how to treat you.

This can mean that if you’re treated by a paramedic in an emergency and are not able to communicate your treatment wishes to them, they may not have time to check to see if you have an Advance Decision. Even so, recording your Advance Decision on their system will make it more likely to be followed.

If you don’t know who your local ambulance trust is, you can contact Compassion in Dying, or view a list of all NHS authorities and trusts on the NHS website.

If you’re based in London and the South East, you can register with Coordinate my Care (CMC), which is a type of EPaCCS. You can find out more about CMC by calling them on 020 7811 8513, or by visiting their website.

More information

We have more information about making your Advance Decision known about in our factsheet Advance Decisions (Living Wills): How will people know about my wishes?.