What do we know about the application of the Mental Capacity Act (2005) in healthcare practice regarding decision making for frail and older people?: a systematic literature review


In England and Wales, decision‐making in cases of uncertain mental capacity is regulated by the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The Act provides a legal framework for decision‐making for adults (16 and over) who are shown to lack capacity and where best interest decisions need to be made on their behalf. Frail older people with cognitive impairments represent a growing demographic sector across England and Wales for whom the protective principles of the Act have great relevance, as they become increasingly dependent on the care of others. However, while the Act articulates core principles, applying the Act in everyday healthcare contexts raises challenges for care providers in terms of interpretation and application. This paper presents a review of the published evidence documenting the use of the Act in healthcare practice, with particular reference to frail older people. Our aim was to identify, review and critically evaluate published empirical studies concerned with the implementation and application of the Act in healthcare settings. A systematic approach was undertaken with pre‐determined exclusion and inclusion criteria applied across five electronic bibliographic databases combined with a manual search of specific journals. This review reports on 38 empirical sources which met the inclusion criteria published between 2005 and 2013. From the 38 sources, three descriptive themes were identified: knowledge and understanding, implementation and tensions in applying the Act, and alternative perspectives of the Act. There is a need for improved knowledge and conceptualisation to enable successful incorporation of the Act into everyday care provision. Inconsistencies in the application of the Act are apparent across a variety of care settings. This review suggest staff need more opportunities to engage, learn and implement the Act, in order for it to have greater resonance to their individual practice and ultimately benefit patient care.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link. Open access article


Everyday decision-making, fluctuating capacity, frail older people, Mental Capacity Act, systematic literature review


Hinsliff‐Smith, K., Feakes, R., Whitworth, G., Seymour, J., Moghaddam, N., Dening, T. and Cox, K. (2017) What do we know about the application of the Mental Capacity Act (2005) in healthcare practice regarding decision‐making for frail and older people? A systematic literature review. Health and Social Care in the Community, 25(2), pp.295-308.


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care