Palliative care expert appointed chair of Mental Capacity Act improvement body

House of Lords member Baroness Ilora Finlay will chair National Mental Capacity Forum

Photo: Gary Brigden

A palliative care expert has been appointed chair of a government forum designed to improve implementation of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Baroness Illoray Finlay, an independent member of the House of Lords, will chair the National Mental Capacity Forum in a three-year appointment made by the Department of Health (DH) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The DH and MoJ said the forum would work with organisations from across social care, health, the law and other sectors to identify actions to improve implementation of the MCA, particularly at a local level.

Baroness Finlay is professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine and has been a consultant in palliative medicine in Wales since 1987. She was made a life peer in 2001.

The DH and MOJ said she was an active contributor to the debates leading to the enactment of the MCA in 2005 and has also written and lectured on the legislation.

Passionate advocate for those without a voice

Finlay said the appointment was a “great honour” and that she had long been a “passionate advocate for those whose voice is often not heard”.

She added: “Over the next few weeks and months I will be reaching out to partners as we look to determine the new Forum’s priorities. At the heart of this will be supporting local cross-sector partnerships to bring about change. In some parts of the country I know there is excellent practice at many levels. But elsewhere this is not the case. Talk of poor MCA implementation will not, on its own, solve the problems. Real action and changes at many levels are needed now.”

Ministers have previously said that, immediately following the chair’s appointment, discussions would be held to decide the forum’s membership and that they aimed to hold the first meeting in November.

The two departments said today that the forum would “bring together those responsible for implementing the MCA” and would have a small group of core members and a larger group of associate members.

Scathing House of Lords report

The forum has been set up in response to a scathing report in 2014 from a House of Lords committee set up to scrutinise the implementation and effectiveness of the MCA.

The committee found that risk averse and paternalistic practice had prevented the MCA from achieving its objective of empowering adults to make decisions for themselves.

It found that no single body was responsible for monitoring implementation of the MCA and therefore recommended that such a body be established to oversee and provide support for implementation. The national forum is the government’s response to this.

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