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Palliat Med. 2010 Jun;24(4):396-402. doi: 10.1177/0269216309360739. Epub 2010 Feb 22.

Working with the Mental Capacity Act: findings from specialist palliative and neurological care settings.

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Sue Ryder Care Centre for Palliative and End of Life Studies, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK.


Since October 2007 staff across health and social care services in England and Wales have been guided by the Mental Capacity Act (2005) in the provision of care for those who may lack capacity to make some decisions for themselves. This paper reports on the findings from a study with 26 staff members working in three palliative and three neurological care centres. Semistructured interviews were used to gain an understanding of their knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act, the issue of capacity itself and the documentation processes associated with the introduction of the Act and in line with advance care planning. Within this setting advance care planning is a key part of care provision and the mental capacity of service users is a regular issue. Findings show that staff generally had a good understanding of issues around capacity but felt unclear about some of the terminology related to the Mental Capacity Act, impacting on their confidence to discuss issues with service users and complete the documentation. Many felt the Act and its associated documentation had aided record-keeping in an area staff already delivered well in practice. Advance care planning in the context of the Mental Capacity Act is not as well embedded in practice as providers would like and consideration needs to be given to how and when staff should approach these issues with service users.

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