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Mental Capacity Act 2005

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides for the first time, a statutory framework for assessing whether a person has capacity to make decisions and defines how others can make decisions on behalf of someone who lacks capacity.  It will be implemented in England and Wales in April 2007
It is accompanied by a code of practice. It is intended to help and support people who have difficulty in making decisions themselves, or who want to plan ahead in case they are unable to make decisions in the future.

The Act will directly affect those who have reduced capacity to make decisions.  These will include people with dementia, severe learning disabilities, severe brain injuries, mental health problems, autism and other conditions. 

The Act relates to any decision involving people who have reduced capacity.  These decisions can be financial or related to care and treatment and are not restricted to any one environment.  The Act will be operational in a person's home, in hospitals (both medical and mental health), in care homes, in supported housing, in General Practitioners' surgeries and dental practices.
In summary the act:
  • Provides a definition of lack of capacity
  • Amends common law test for capacity
  • Requires consultation with representatives
  • Gives advance decisions statutory status
  • Allows substitute decision making in healthcare and welfare situations
  • Regulates research

All staff that work with people that have reduced capacity will be directly affected by the Act.  In addition, relatives, carers, advocates and people who work for voluntary services will be affected by, and required to use the Act if they are involved with people who have reduced capacity.

From April 2007 the Act will supercede all existing guidance on capacity.  Its authority as statute means that any codes of practice or guidance or policies that do not follow its requirements will be invalid.

Any service or person working with someone who lacks capacity will have to follow the Act.  A lack of knowledge of the Act will not be accepted as a valid defence in law.


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