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Mental Capacity Act Code needs revising to enable more effective best interests decisions, says Mental Health Foundation

Report calls for a clearer definition of mental capacity

The Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with the Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol and the Centre for Applied Social Research at the University of Bradford, have published a report calling for the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) Code of Practice to be revised to enable health and social care staff to make more effective best interests decisions.

The report – Making Best Interests Decisions: People and Processes – is the result of a two year research project led by Dr Val Williams at the Norah Fry Research Centre and funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme aiming to deliver evidence about the extent to which the MCA and its guidance are effective, particularly when best interests decisions are being made about personal welfare, social care or healthcare, and decisions involving property and financial affairs.

Key findings from the report are as follows:

The report calls for:

Toby Williamson, Head of Development and Later Life at the Mental Health Foundation, said:

"The Mental Capacity Act is a new piece of legislation and it is essential that we make sure that its guidance is effective, reflects the complex situations that health and social care professionals face every day and is easy to put into practice.

"The Code of Practice was written before the Act came into force and we  now know from our research  that it does not always encompass the complexity of capacity assessments in practice and that staff working in health and social care continue to need support to improve the way that they make best interests decisions. We hope that our recommendation to revise it by reference to our findings will prove a real asset in helping them achieve this."

The research involved collecting evidence from people working in health, social care and legal settings. The research team developed an online research tool to gather data for the first stage of the project. The ground breaking tool, called BRIDGET, can also be used by anyone who has been involved in a best interests decision to evaluate how well the process met the requirements of the MCA and its Code of Practice. When people have completed the questions they will almost immediately receive an automated report indicating how well the process met the requirements of the MCA and the Code of Practice.

The report can be downloaded here.