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Analyse factors that influence the capacity of an individual to express consent

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To provide care or treatment, a health and social care worker must obtain the consent of the individual receiving it. However, there may be times when an individual does not have the capacity to consent and it may be necessary to carry out a mental capacity assessment before making a decision about what is in the best interests of the individual.

Some factors that can influence an individual’s capacity to express consent include:

  • Intoxication from alcohol or drugs
  • Mental health conditions such as schizophrenia
  • Dementia
  • Learning disabilities
  • Being unconscious
  • Being drowsy
  • Brain injuries
  • Infection/delirium
  • Stroke (may not be able to communicate their consent easily)

Any of these impairments may make the individual incapable of giving their consent, however, it is important to remember that a mental capacity assessment will only be relevant for a particular decision at a particular time. For example, an individual may not be able to consent to treatment whilst they are intoxicated but the next day their capacity will probably have returned.

An individual is said to not have the capacity to make a decision if they cannot:

  1. Understand the information given to them about a decision
  2. Retain that information for long enough to make the decision
  3. Use that information to make their decision (weigh up the pros and cons)
  4. Communicate their decision

It is important that health and social care professionals do their utmost to assist individuals to make their own decisions. This includes giving them all the information they need to make an informed choice and using different communication methods to find out the individual’s decision.

All care workers should read and be familiar with the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice, which explains how to ensure they work within the boundaries of the law and best practices.

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