What is the Mental Capacity Act?
The Mental Capacity Act is a legal frame work that was introduced in 2007. It enables health and social care professionals as well as carers to consider the provision of care and treatment for service users who may lack capacity or are unable to give consent to their treatment.
Who does the Mental Capacity Act apply to?The Mental Capacity Act applies to all those over the age of sixteen, who have been diagnosed with an impairment or disturbance of their mind or brain. The disturbance might be permanent or temporary and could include a service user with a significant mental health problem (e.g. someone being affected by symptoms of dementia) to somebody temporarily under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Mental Capacity Act also enables service user s to plan for the future while they still have the capacity to do so.
What is a capacity test?Health or social care professionals assessing someone’s capacity to make a decision must use the two-stage test of capacity. The first question asks whether the person has an impairment or disturbance of the mind or brain. The second question considers whether the identified impairment or disturbance affects the person’s ability to make a specific decision. The health or social care professional will then have to answer a four part functional test to determine whether a decision should be made in the best interest of the person. The functional test includes four questions;
- Does the service user understand the decision to be made?
- Is the service user able to retain the information given about the specific decision?
- Can the person weigh up consequences of making that decision?
- Can the person communicate the decision by any means?