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Mental Capacity Act 2005

Explains how the Mental Capacity Act affects you and how you can plan ahead for when you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. Applies to England and Wales.

What types of decisions can be made on my behalf if I lack capacity?

Under the Mental Capacity Act, someone could make decisions on your behalf relating to your:

  • Healthcare and medical treatment
  • Welfare and personal care

What are healthcare and medical treatment decisions?

These could include decisions on whether to have:

  • Examinations and tests done by doctors and other healthcare professionals, to diagnose a health problem
  • Treatment from a doctor or dentist, including medical operations or surgery
  • Restarting your heart
  • Breathing, feeding and drinking by artificial methods, such as tubes and machines
  • Blood transfusions
  • Having samples of blood or other substances taken from the body
  • Chiropody, physiotherapy and nursing care

Routine actions

If you lack capacity, there are many other routine actions that carers or professionals can make for you without needing any legal authority or permission from a court.

These routine actions include:

  • Giving you routine medication
  • Taking you to hospital for treatment or assessment
  • Giving you nursing care or emergency first aid or medical treatment

What if I've made an advance decision or a power of attorney?

A carer or professional shouldn't make any healthcare decisions on your behalf if any of the following is true:

  • They know that you've made an advance decision and these decisions would go against what you've put in the advance decision.
  • They know that you've named an attorney in a lasting power of attorney and this would go against what they've decided.
  • Their decision goes against one made by a deputy appointed by a court.
  • Their decision goes against one made by the Court of Protection.

What are welfare and personal care decisions?

These are decisions about day-to-day actions which are necessary for your welfare. They include decisions about:

  • Where you're going to live or who you'll have contact with
  • Washing, dressing or feeding
  • Shopping, buying essential goods and arranging personal care services
  • Tidying or clearing up your home if you're in hospital or residential accommodation
  • Help with communication
  • Arranging social care services or a social care assessment

Carers, family members and health and care professionals can usually make these decisions if you’ve lost the capacity to do so. They can do this without needing permission from a court, as long as their decisions are in your best interests.

When can't someone make a day-to-day decision for me?

If any of the following people have made decisions about your day-to-day activities, your carers, family members and healthcare professionals cannot override these decisions:

  • An attorney you have named under a lasting power of attorney to make personal and welfare decisions for you
  • A personal welfare deputy appointed to you 
  • A Court of Protection

If you’re sectioned under the Mental Health Act, your responsible clinician may be able to make certain decisions that go against those made by your attorney, your deputy or a Court of Protection. For example, when deciding how to treat your mental health problem.

How can I plan ahead for when I can't make decisions for myself?

If you want to plan for when you may no longer have capacity to make decisions for yourself, you could consider making:

What happens if I don't plan ahead?

If you lose capacity and you haven't made an advance decision or appointed an attorney, the Court of Protection can:

  • Make a one-off decision
  • Make several decisions
  • Appoint a deputy to make decisions on your behalf

Read more about the Court of Protection.

This information was published in April 2023. We'll revise it in 2026.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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