13 May 2014 13:32

People who have limited mental capacity need better help with making decisions according to a clinical psychologist at Lancaster University.

Dr Stephen Weatherhead says the implementation of the Mental Capacity Act by health and social care professionals is often inadequate.

Research he supervised, conducted by Irram Walji, is published in the journal Social Care and Neurodisability.


The research found gaps in training and misunderstandings in the implementation of the complexities of the Act.

Dr Weatherhead said: “With an ageing population and more people surviving serious injury, this Act will affect nearly everyone at some point. Whether from Alzheimer’s, autism or brain injury, people can lack the mental capacity to decide things like where to live or whether to have hospital treatment.”

He said that professionals often veered between being too empowering or too restrictive when helping with decisions. 

“For example, when a lady with Alzheimer’s says she wants to leave everything to her two grandchildren when she actually has four grandchildren, what do you do? This lady had forgotten about the other two so someone needs to help her make that decision.”

He said specialist training is needed to ensure that professionals understand the subtle provisions of the Act.

 “We need to go further than just ensuring knowledge and confidence; we need to also ensure that people are applying that knowledge and confidence safely and true to the empowerment principles upon which the Act was established.”