Ethics England Wales

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Introduction to the mental capacity tool kit

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides a legal framework in England and Wales for decision making on behalf of people aged 16 or over who cannot make decisions themselves. It also sets out the law for people who wish to make preparations for a time in the future when they may lack capacity to make decisions.

The purpose of this tool kit is to act as a prompt to doctors when they are providing care and treatment for people who lack, or who may lack, the mental capacity to make decisions on their own behalf. In our view, this is likely to be the majority of doctors. The tool kit consists of a series of cards relating to specific areas of the Act, such as how to assess capacity, the Act’s basic principles, advance refusals of treatment, research and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).

Although each of the cards refers to separate areas of the Act, there is inevitably a degree of overlap.

This tool kit is not intended to provide definitive guidance on all the issues surrounding the Mental Capacity Act. Card 1 lists alternative sources of guidance that should be used in conjunction with the cards. In cases of doubt, legal advice should be sought. The tool kit is designed to raise doctors’ awareness of the Act, and to provide an aid for good decision making.

This tool kit applies to England and Wales. In Scotland, decision making in this area is covered by the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000. In Northern Ireland, decision making is currently governed by the common law, although at the time of writing change was anticipated.

Trusts, medical schools and individual doctors may download and adapt the tool kit to suit their own requirements. There are no copyright restrictions on this tool kit – please feel free to make multiple copies.

We welcome feedback on the usefulness of this tool kit. If you have any comments please send them to [email protected]


Start using the tool kit



Mental Capacity Act tool kit (England and Wales) - full version (PDF)