A recent article in ‘Pulse Today’ discusses the potential impact of the new Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS) due to be introduced on the 1st October 2020 will have on GPs.
The article states that under the new law the onus to complete mental health and mental capacity assessments will fall to GPs. Care home staff will no longer be permitted to complete them. In the case where a patient does not have an existing diagnosis or assessment the GP must therefore complete it.
Mental capacity or mental health?
There seems to be some confusion within the article as to what the GP’s are being asked to do. It begins by discussing the need for mental capacity assessments but changes to assessing if the person has a mental disorder. Clearly the two are not the same. Nor, indeed, is the process or the individual best placed to complete the assessment. If the process is to include mental capacity assessments the implications on cost and time could be huge.
Who is best placed to complete mental capacity assessments?
In terms of the GPs bearing the brunt of the assessments it is interesting to see the responses provided. Many GPs feel that they are not qualified to do these types of assessment. We find that many GPs currently refuse to complete mental capacity assessments as they do not have the time or regular experience to complete them.
The issue of time could be a major stumbling block for the proposed plans. If we think that a mental capacity assessment from start to finish is an average of 8 hours, not just the face to face element but the whole process. It is entirely unreasonable to expect them to be able to do this as well as their own caseload.
Add to that the potential number of mental capacity assessments needed for one individual. The process could be endless to cover the multitude of decisions being made. The person cannot simply be ‘diagnosed’ as having or lacking capacity. Indeed, as capacity is time specific the assessments may need to occur on more than one occasion.
It will be interesting to watch over the next year to see how these difficulties can be addressed. We can only hope that the value of independent mental capacity assessments can be recognised, both in terms of the expertise and availability.