Background: The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) was fully implemented in October 2007 in England and Wales. The experience of clinicians working in Old Age Psychiatry, who are likely to have greater experience in the use of MCA, in the early implementation of the MCA was examined.
Methods: Case-notes of 37 patients in seven different Old Age Psychiatry services in two mental health trusts in west London, who had received at least one assessment of decision-making capacity (DMC) for a specific issue, were examined. A qualitative thematic analysis pertaining to the criteria used for the assessment of DMC, determination of best interests, least restrictive option and unwise decision was used for data analysis.
Results: The main findings were: the criteria used for the assessment of DMC and the determination of best interests were those described in the MCA and the accompanying Code of Practice; and clinicians were developing the concepts of least restrictive option and unwise decision with face validity despite the absence of their definitions in the MCA.
Conclusion: Caution should be exercised in extrapolating the findings of this study, which is confined to two Mental Health Trusts in one geographical area and the speciality of Old Age Psychiatry, to other localities and other specialties. Nevertheless, there was evidence that clinicians were following the basic principles of the MCA correctly.