Update to Mental Capacity Act code ‘would put people with learning disabilities at heart of care’

People with learning disabilities and their families would have a greater say in their care under new protections being consulted on to update the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice.

An explicit duty for a person to be directly consulted on their welfare to find out their wishes and feelings about proposed arrangements would be brought in as part of new Liberty Protection Safeguards.

The consultation, launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry of Justice on Thursday, runs until July 7.

The Government said the changes would be aimed at better supporting people with dementia, acquired brain injuries, learning disabilities and autism who might require others to make decisions in their best interests.

Such decisions could include where they should live, setting times for refreshments or activities, whether they can leave their accommodation and the use of restraint in certain circumstances, the DHSC said.

The changes would represent the first revision of the code since its publication in 2007.

Gillian Keegan (pictured), minister for care and mental health, said the reforms would “put people at the heart of care”.

She said: “Some of the most vulnerable people in society are lawfully deprived of their liberty to ensure they receive the best possible care, as safely as possible, while they are in hospital or living in a care home.

“Liberty Protection Safeguards put people at the heart of care, just as we promised in our reform programme, and will give them more of a say in their care.

“The proposed changes will speed up processes and increase fairness, ensuring the balance between a person’s human rights and freedoms and their need to receive the right care in the right place at the right time.”

Other potential changes would see people allowed to have representation including independent mental capacity advocates, to ensure their rights are protected and assess what safeguards are necessary when decisions are being made, and cutting the number of assessments required to make decisions to help ensure a quicker process.

NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS trusts, welcomed the consultation and said it would be encouraging members to engage with it.

Director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin said: “We welcomed the reform of the Mental Capacity Act and the introduction of the new Liberty Protection Safeguards – in particular the provision allowing for the NHS, rather than local authorities, to make decisions about patients and services users.

“We believe this will result in a more efficient and clearly accountable process as patients are most likely to be on site or in touch with NHS services at the time that they require these provisions.”

She added that any extra costs as a result of the changes would mean confirmation is needed as to how national bodies will ensure providers are appropriately resourced to deliver them.

She said: “More broadly, we support policy and legislative measures, which better enable trusts to apply the Mental Capacity Act in a consistent and transparent way that protects service users’ rights and supports high-quality care.”

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