How do I assess a patient's capacity?

Assessing a patient's capacity to consent is central to everyday medical practice, and usually their capacity will not be in question. There is a statutory test with which to assess capacity, set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) and its accompanying Code of Practice.

The MCA applies in England and Wales. See the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and the Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 for the relevant legislation for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Where the patient has fluctuating capacity, or assessment of their capacity is complex or where the assessment is finely balanced, it may be helpful to seek specific medico-legal advice.

Read our guide on assessing capacity for more information.

This page was correct at publication on 21/01/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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