Change to incapacity test needed, say GPs

Doctors in Scotland are calling for changes to be made to the way
they are required to implement the Adults with Incapacity
(Scotland) Act 2000.

The act allows other people to make decisions on behalf of people
who lack the capacity to make decisions because of a mental
disorder or inability to communicate.

But GPs are protesting about the implications of part five of the
act, which refers to medical treatment.

According to this section, which came into force in July 2002,
doctors are required to make assessments of patients who are
considered unable to make decisions and issue a certificate of
incapacity before they can administer treatment.

GPs have complained that the assessments take as long as half an
hour per patient, resulting in a marked increase in workload.

GP David Love, joint chairperson of the Scottish General
Practitioners Committee, said that the additional burden was
unacceptable and that carrying out the assessments was an
impossible task for some GPs.

He emphasised that doctors were not arguing with the act’s
underlying principles, but were concerned that the assessment was
required before even basic treatment such as giving a flu jab could
be carried out.

The code of practice had failed to make it clear that the
legislation was “permissive” rather than “directive”, and that
doctors not implementing it would therefore not be breaking the
law, he explained.

Discussions have taken place with ministers and proposals put
forward on how to amend the act and code of practice.

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