Ethics England Wales

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Assessing mental capacity

Working with patients who may lack capacity to make decisions at a specific time can present a difficult challenge for doctors.

The assessing mental capacity tool aims to help you assess whether a patient has the capacity to make that decision.

This practical, easy to use tool will enable you to break down the assessment into a number of discrete, legally-compliant steps, as laid down in the Mental Capacity Act for England and Wales.

At certain points during this assessment you may need to make a best interests decision on behalf of your patient. Information about the factors you may need to take into account can be found in the BMA's Mental Capacity Act tool kit, and where necessary the Mental Capacity Act's Code of Practice.

Please ensure that you read this guidance as well as using the interactive tool.


Do you need to assess a patient's mental capacity?

Use our interactive tool to help you.



Supporting guidance

Mental Capacity Act - Code of Practice

Assessment of mental capacity: a practical guide for doctors and lawyers

The British Medical Association and the Law Society, 4th edition (published November 2015), edited by Alex Ruck Keene.

The fourth edition has been updated and expanded to take account of:

  • Recent case law and current good practice
  • Revision of the Mental Health Act 1983: Code of Practice
  • The rising prominence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Update on deprivation of liberty following the Supreme Court ruling in Cheshire West. It provides an essential source of guidelines and information, including extracts from the Act and the Code of Practice and is an indispensable tool for health and legal professionals.

RRP £49.95
BMA members are eligible for a 20% discount. Quote code DLMC/G.

Find out more


What do you think?

This interactive tool is a new initiative for the BMA. In order to ensure it is the best we can deliver, we would appreciate your feedback.

Please let us know what you think about the following points:

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is the language clear and concise?
  • Would you like more guidance delivered in this format?

Email us your suggestions