Thursday, 30 July 2015

Law Commission Publishes Consultation Paper on Mental Capacity & DoLS

On 7th July 2015, the Law Commission released its long awaited consultation paper on mental capacity and deprivation of liberty. It makes very interesting reading, and suggests sweeping changes to the whole process of the management of people who lack capacity, and makes some recommendations that would require significant changes to the Mental Health Act.
One of the encouraging things about this document is that it weighs in to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, and has hardly anything good to say about them, quoting a wide range of eminent sources criticising its ““bewildering complexity”, with Mr Justice Charles saying that writing a judgement on a DoLS case was “as if you have been in a washing machine and spin dryer”.

As the paper says, referring to DoLS:
In March 2014 two events inflicted significant damage. First, the House of Lords post-legislative scrutiny committee on the Mental Capacity Act published a report which, amongst other matters, concluded that the DoLS were not “fit for purpose” and proposed their replacement. A few days later, a Supreme Court judgment widened the definition of deprivation of liberty to a considerable extent. The practical implications have been significant for the public image of the DoLS, and the regime has struggled to cope with the increased number of cases. (1.6)

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards should be replaced by a new system called “protective care"

The paper makes the important point that:
The DoLS assume that nursing staff and care workers on the ground can identify and respond to deprivations of liberty. Yet this requires an assessment of a highly technical question of fact and law which is ultimately to be decided by the Strasbourg court. The concept of deprivation of liberty continues to cause disagreement amongst lawyers, academics and – as witnessed in Cheshire West – Supreme Court justices. The result is that “care providers, insofar as they think about DoLS at all, seem to perceive it as a technical legal solution to a technical legal problem” and not something that will benefit the relevant person in any tangible way. Reports have shown that in care homes knowledge of, and confidence in, the DoLS is limited, and managers and staff are heavily reliant on their local authority to identify potential deprivations of liberty amongst residents. (2.15)

As if that were not enough to sound the death knell of the DoLS, the paper goes on to say:

Terms such as “standard authorisations”, “managing authority” and “supervisory body” have been described variously as cumbersome, Orwellian, and failing to reflect modern health and social care functions. Particular criticism has been directed at the label “Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards”.

It does not come as a surprise, then, to find that one of the first recommendations the paper makes is that “the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards should be replaced by a new system called “protective care”. It recommends that this should include hospitals, care homes, supported living, and even “shared lives and domestic accommodation.”

The paper makes a distinction between “supportive care” and “protective care.” While “protective care” would replace the current Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, and would also be extended to include anyone aged 16 or over, “supportive care” “is intended to provide suitable protection for people who are in a vulnerable position, but not yet subject to restrictive forms of care and treatment (including deprivation of liberty). In other words, it is intended to establish a preventive set of safeguards that reduce the need for intrusive interventions in the longer term.”(6.2)
Supportive care would apply where someone is living in a care home, supported living or shared lives accommodation, and also if a move into such accommodation is being considered. However, the whole point of supportive care is “to authorise preventive forms of care and support, such as enhanced assessment and care planning oversight procedures – and would not authorise a deprivation of liberty”. (6.12)

The role of the Best Interests Assessor will be abolished, and replaced by an Approved Mental Capacity Professional.

Where deprivation of liberty is being considered, but outside the current parameters of the Mental Health Act, a proposed “restrictive care and treatment scheme” would come into play. But crucially: “it is not organised around deprivation of liberty. Instead it looks at whether care and treatment arrangements are becoming sufficiently intrusive or restrictive to justify enhanced formal safeguards. This will include those deprived of liberty, but will also include some whose arrangements fall short of this”.
This is where one of the major changes to the existing arrangements is being proposed. The role of the Best Interests Assessor will be abolished, and replaced by an Approved Mental Capacity Professional. These “Approved Mental Capacity Professionals” would be “in the same position legally as Approved Mental Health Professionals. In other words, they will be acting as independent decision-makers on behalf of the local authority.”(7.104)
These AMCPs would have powers and duties which appear to be even more wide ranging than those of the AMHP. They would be involved in assessing and reviewing people subject to restrictive care and treatment, who would be people defined as lacking “decision-making capacity as a result of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain.” AMCPs would be required to arrange for the assessment of such people “to be undertaken by a person already involved in the person’s care (eg the person’s social worker or nurse) and quality assure the outcome of that assessment or oversee or facilitate the assessment; or undertake the assessment themselves.”
Other tasks of the AMCP would include ensuring that decision-making processes and care arrangements comply with the Care Act, the Mental Capacity Act and other regulations, that there are regular review meetings, and that the person has an advocate and appropriate person to take care of their interests. Where someone is subject to restrictive care and treatment, the AMCP would even be required to specify the duration “which may not exceed 12 months.” They would even have discretion to discharge the individual from such a regime.
Where people who are in a hospital setting, they would be able to be deprived of their liberty for up to 28 days; but if such deprivation continued beyond that, then an AMCP would have to agree to this.
The paper suggests that the Mental Health Act definition of mental disorder, broad though it is, would not be used for these cases, stating that “people with a pure brain injury and those dependent on alcohol or drugs should not be excluded automatically from the benefits of supportive care.”
We are attracted to the approach taken under the Mental Health Act whereby decision-making is more coherently and clearly defined than under the DoLS
Their proposals would obviate the need to go to the High Court for cases currently excluded by the MHA, which includes “people in a persistent vegetative state or minimally conscious state caused by a concussion or brain injury, or someone suffering from a stroke or locked in syndrome.”

The writers of this paper state that “we are attracted to the approach taken under the Mental Health Act whereby decision-making is more coherently and clearly defined than under the DoLS. They go on to say:

We have considered several options for the interface between our scheme and the Mental Health Act. First, we could retain and clarify the existing interface. In doing so, it is important to emphasise that we would not wish to preserve the current drafting of schedule 1A, which is widely viewed as impenetrable. (10.17)

The paper therefore makes a proposal that the MHA should be amended. This is in order to establish “a formal process for the admission of people who lack capacity and who are not objecting to their care and treatment.” This would place such people within the safeguards already available to patients subject to the MHA, and would importantly include the right to appeal to a mental health tribunal.

I’ve necessarily only skimmed the surface of this extensive paper, which runs to 230 pages (although you can read the 12 page summary), picking out proposoals and recommendations particularly close to my heart. But there is a great deal to like in these proposals, which go a long way to addressing the deficiencies of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards in particular. I also like the fact that they recognise the Mental Health Act as being a good place for these changes to reside.

However, this is a consultation paper. The final proposals for changes in the law may be quite different. Not least is the impact of the Conservative Government’s plans to scrap or reform the Human Rights Act, and the fact that many of the proposals are designed to address issues raised by recent case law and the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is far from clear whether the current government is concerned enough about human rights in general to spend much time legislating to reform and extend the rights of people who lack capacity.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Important Guidance from The College of Social Work on the Impact of Cheshire West on AMHP Practice

This was authored by the eminent Emad Lilo, who is Vice Chair of TCSW AMHP Community and works as AMHP practice lead at Mersey Care Foundation Trust. He is well known for producing extraordinary annual social care conferences, some of which I have reported on this blog.

This is an important document for two reasons.

The first is that it is quite probably the last document The College of Social Work will ever issue, as the Government in their wisdom has seen fit to withdraw funding from TCSW with the consequence that the organisation will cease to exist by September.

The second reason is that it provides important guidance for Approved Mental Health Professionals, Best Interests Assessors and their employers on how to negotiate the minefield that is the interface between the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act.

Last year, the Supreme Court issued a judgement, P v Cheshire West and Chester Council and P and Q v Surrey County Council [2014] UKSC 19, which attempted to clarify when and how deprivations of liberty might arise for people lacking mental capacity.

Lady Hale in the judgement offered a simple “Acid Test” to assist in determining whether someone suffered a Deprivation of Liberty. It revolved around two facts: that the person is not “free to leave”, and that they are subject to continuous supervision and control. She recommends that professionals shoulderr on the side of caution” when reaching a decision regarding potential deprivation of liberty, which means that AMHPs and BIAs should ensure they use their respective powers in such cases.

These powers are essentially: to detain the patient under the MHA, to obtain an authorisation under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, or if there is no other route, to obtain an order from either the Court of Protection or via the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court.

You can read more about  the Cheshire West judgement on my blog here.

TCSW surveyed 24 AMHP service providers across England and Wales in order to find out the impact that this Supreme Court decision had had on:
·         AMHP practice and the use of the Mental Health Act
·         The use of DoLS or MHA or MCA for admitting incapacitated patients to a mental health unit
·         The use of DoLS or MHA or MCA for the provision of care/treatment to incapacitated patients already in a mental health unit
·         What training/guidance is or should be made available to improve practice including effective and lawful implementation of the judgment
As a result of this survey, the report makes a number of recommendations in order to ensure that all professionals and organisations working with people who are mentally incapacitated are practicing within the law and the spirit of the legislation.

The report also provides some useful grids and flowcharts to assist in making decisions regarding the use of the Mental Health Act or DoLS.

All but one service provider reported an increase in the burden of work carried out by AMHPs. One respondent noted:
“We have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of MHA assessments being requested, and the number of patients being detained as a direct consequence of the CW ruling.

There has also been a corresponding increase in the level of requests for authorisations under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. A respondent noted:
“The dedicated BIA team has been expanded by recruitment of extra BIAs and admin staff as this is the main point of contact for inquiries. Despite these increases the BIA service cannot adequately respond to the increase in contact and demand.”

The report observes:
“The situation appears to be more challenging for certain local authorities where a large proportion of their Best Interests Assessors for DoLS are drawn from the AMHP service. The levels of activity have led to unprecedented pressure on already limited and stretched AMHP provision across the country.”

The report also contains extensive discussion of the implications of the Cheshire West judgement in context of the new Code of Practice, and also examines the Law Society guidance issued on behalf of Department of Health.

The MHA Code of Practice was revised subsequent to the Cheshire West judgement. It must therefore be concluded that the writers of the revised Code had the judgement in mind.

Nevertheless, the Code contains some potentially alarming recommendations. For example, it states that "a person who lacks capacity to consent to being accommodated in a hospital for care and/or treatment for mental disorder and who is likely to be deprived of their liberty should never be informally admitted to hospital (whether they are content to be admitted or not)."(13.53)

A consequence of this would appear to be that the MHA is almost invariably going to be used when someone lacking capacity needs to be admitted to hospital.

However, Professor Richard Jones, author not only of the Mental Health Act Manual but also the Mental Capacity Act Manual, stated, “In my opinion, compliant mentally incapacitated patients can continue to be admitted informally under the authority of ss.5 and 6 of the MCA.  After admission, they can be assessed to see whether they satisfy the Acid Test. In any event, I do not see how the use of the MHA can be justified in anticipation of a possible future deprivation of liberty.”

Neil Allen, a Barrister at 39 Essex Street Chambers and lecturer at Manchester University went on to say: “If I lack capacity and need to be admitted to a psychiatric ward to treat my mental disorder, if I object or would object if able to, use the MHA. If I am non-objecting, use MCA 5-6 to take me there and urgent DOLS with request for standard DOLS…. In deciding whether I object or would object, if in doubt Code says err on the side of caution (i.e. consider me to be objecting).”

The report also looks at the Law Society guidance. In connection with conveyance, this states:

“Transporting a person who lacks capacity from their home, or another location to a hospital by ambulance in an emergency will not usually amount to a deprivation of liberty. In almost all cases, it is likely that a person can be lawfully taken to a hospital or care home by ambulance under the wider provisions of the Act, as long as it is considered that being in the hospital or care home will be in their best interests.”

I pick out these particular quotes as in my work as an AMHP and also having responsibility for triaging MHA assessment requests for my local authority, I am always keen to adhere to the MHA Code of Practice’s first principle, which is to use the least restrictive option wherever possible. I am therefore reluctant to use the powers of detention under the MHA if there are alternatives, including use of the MCA for people who lack capacity.
The report makes a range of recommendations, including that AMHPs need to be familiar with the Mental Capacity Act and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and need to be familiar with the key points from the Cheshire West judgment, that local authorities should increase the number of AMHPs to cope with the increased demand, that there needs to be additional training on the MHA Code of Practice, and that “hospitals, local authorities and care homes must work together locally to raise awareness and improve understanding of the MCA more widely and embed it in the health and social care culture.”
This review can necessarily only outline what is contained in this important document. There is so much that is of relevance to professional decision making that I recommend all AMHPs, BIAs and others professionally involved with making decisions on behalf of people lacking capacity should read it in full.