What is the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and how does it affect carers?

If you work within the health and social care sector, it is very important that you are up to date on all the relevant legislation affecting the rights and care of your patients.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is one of these important pieces of legislation, as it aims to provide a legal framework for those wishing to act on behalf of people who are unable to make certain decisions for themselves.

The legislation, which came into effect in England and Wales in 2007, outlines five statutory (legal) principles. These are:

  1. A person must be assumed to have the capacity to make decisions for themselves unless it can be established that they lack capacity
  2. A person should not be treated as being unable to make a decision unless every other practical effort has unsuccessfully been made to help the person to do so.
  3.  A person should not be treated as unable to make a decision based on one unwise decision.
  4. A decision or act made on behalf of a person under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 must be in the person’s best interests.
  5. Before the act or decision can be made, alternatives which achieve the same ends but are less restrictive of the person’s freedom of action must be considered.

As you must bear these principles in mind when caring for patients, it is advisable to take a Mental Capacity Act Awareness care training course to familiarise yourself with them.