Understanding mental capacity
Understanding mental capacity

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Understanding mental capacity

2 Who assesses?

There is no particular role with designated responsibility to undertake assessments of mental capacity, nor is there any legal requirement for assessments to be carried out by particular people. This remains the case despite the introduction of legislation and guidance. In practice, certain people are more likely to conduct mental capacity assessments than others, these can include social workers and doctors.

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Figure 2 There are no rules

Activity 2 There are no rules

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Why do you think there are no formal roles or procedures for assessing mental capacity? Write your thoughts in the text box below.

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Comment

The reason there are no formal roles or procedures for assessing mental capacity in law is that the assessment process needs to be comprehensive in the decisions it may apply to, while at the same time practical in its application. The absence of such direction is meant to avoid ‘blanket’ assessments where a ‘diagnosis’ of lack of capacity could be applied to every decision.

Before the legislation, an assessment of capacity would have applied to both everyday and bigger decisions and perhaps only made by a doctor. Now, others such as a family carer can be involved. Capacity legislation covers all decisions, both the everyday decisions and more significant ones, and makes clear that the assessment of capacity must be in relation to a particular decision at a particular point in time. It is ‘designed to empower those in health and social care to assess capacity themselves, rather than rely on expert testing’ (SCIE, 2016).

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