Assessing mental capacity - BPS guidelines published

THE Mental Capacity Act 2005 ( was passed in April 2005 as the final act of legislation of the Labour government before the last election. It had widespread support from all parliamentary parties, professional bodies involved in the implementation of its requirements and the majority of voluntary organisations. The BPS gave both written and oral evidence and comments to the parliamentary scrutiny committee on the draft bill before it was introduced to
the House of Commons.
A Code of Practice for the Act will be published later this year – a draft Code came out for consultation in March (see The Act, which extends to England and Wales only, will come into force in April 2007 and is likely to have a significant impact on policies and practices of health, social and other care services. If the experience in Scotland, where similar legislation already exists, is anything to go by, it will also affect the work of applied psychologists in terms of both increased demands for assessments and also requiring a higher level of expertise and confidence in engaging in such work.
The Act established a statutory framework to protect both those who lack capacity and those who care for them.
It establishes a responsibility to demonstrate a lack of capacity for specific decisions (rather than a global lack) and to ensure that capacity is enhanced as much as possible. It also places the person’s wishes or best interests (whether expressed in an advanced directive, directly or through some proxy) at the heart of decision making and therefore should, if properly implemented, impel services to take a more formal client-centred approach.
Before the bill had been proposed, a working group had been set up within the BPS to produce guidelines for applied psychologists. This was cross- Division (encompassing the DCP and DoN) and cross-speciality, including psychologists working
in learning disability, neuropsychology, older peoples’ services, forensic and adult mental health. This group worked over several years to produce interim guidelines to support the development of expertise amongst psychologists required to assess capacity and to assist in the enhancement of capacity. It was anticipated that there would be a significant training need for all applied psychologists who might be involved in this area of work. This would be addressed in part by statutory agencies, but inevitably Society members seeking guidance would also contact the BPS for assistance.
The working party has produced interim guidance using case examples to illustrate how psychologists approach the assessment of capacity to illustrate expected standards of professional practice. These have covered areas such as consent to treatment, capacity to decide where to live, decisions about sexual relations, making a will, entering into a contract and involvement in court and legal procedures. The Interim Guidelines have incorporated the provisions of the Act, but acknowledge that there is ongoing work on the Code of Practice, which may require revision of the guidelines once the Act comes into force and daily use. The document also includes a chapter based on the experience of psychologists in Scotland.
The document has been approved by PPB and is available to download from the BPS website ( rather than as hard copy, as it is recognised that the document will need reviewing and updating within three years.
There is continuing discussion taking place among interested parties within the BPS (coordinated by Nigel Atter, PPB Administrator) on how to maintain, develop and disseminate the required expertise within the profession both in assessing and enhancing capacity and in taking on roles within the working of the Act.
- If you wish to join the BPS Mental Capacity Discussion Group, contact Nigel ([email protected]).


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Research Board SEEKS A Postdoctoral Representative

The Research Board is seeking to appoint a postdoctoral representative to replace Dr Jane Ginsborg who has stepped down from the Board. The appointment is for a one-year term (renewable for an additional two years). The Board is responsible for influencing funding for the support and encouragement of psychological research; providing guidance on general research issues; promoting research (both discipline-based and multidisciplinary) by the dissemination of results through conferences, seminars and other means; defining standards for the training of postgraduate students in research methods; and working to maximise the availability of funds to support psychological research.
We are seeking statements of interest from members of the Society that have been recently appointed postdoctoral researchers or as lecturers. The appointee will also be invited to serve on the Executive Committee, as well as the selection committee for the research seminars scheme and postgraduate study visits scheme, and the committee for the award for outstanding doctoral research contributions to psychology. These schemes are geared towards supporting and encouraging postgraduate research and research networks, as well as recognising high calibre published work.
Statement of Interest forms and further details can be obtained from Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard (Scientific Officer) on e-mail: [email protected], tel: 0116 2529510. The deadline is 5 May 2006.

Subsytem notices

10th Annual Conference
15–17 September 2006, St Anne’s College, Oxford
Keynote speakers include Shaun Gallagher (University of Florida), Brian Goodwin (Schumacher College), Alan B. Wallace (Santa Barbara Institute) and Dan Zahavi (University of Copenhagen).
Call for papers
150-word abstract plus a 500-word summary or paper on conference themes by 5 May 2006 to Michael Beaton, Department of Informatics, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH. E-mail: [email protected].
Registration enquiries: [email protected]. Other enquiries: [email protected].
Full details on CEP website:
Annual Conference 2006
13–15 September, Essex University
Deadline for abstract submissions for late posters – 8 June 2006.
Further details from: the conference website or
e-mail [email protected].
For lower rates, register before 31 July. Student bursaries are available, send applications to Professor N. Rumsey, Chair of the DHP – from April until 8 June 2006. See conference website for details.
National PSIGE Conference 2006 'Equality and Diversity in the Third Age'
University of Sussex, 5–7 July
More details in March 2006 issue.
For further details see the BPS website, or contact the BPS conference office on 0116 252 9555.
The New DCP Annual Conference
Congress Centre, London, 14–15 December
Call for submissions now open.
Please visit for further details or call the Conference Office on 0116 252 9555.
Annual Conference and final call for submissions
7–9 September 2006, Royal Holloway, University of London
Submissions are welcomed in any area of psychology relating to developmental issues for paper and poster presentations, symposia and workshops. The deadline for all submissions is 28 April 2006.
For more details, including information on submission, registration and accommodation, visit or e-mail [email protected].
CPD masterclass and workshop programme 2006
The 2006 Learning a Living programme runs from April to October.
April and May workshops listed in March 2006 issue.
Full programme details via Further information – e-mail [email protected], or call Mandy Lindsay or Kerry Wood on 0116 252 9555. Book early to avoid disappointment as places are limited.
Invitation to submit workshop tenders for 2007
The DOP invites you to tender for a workshop for the 2007 Learning a Living programme. For full details please visit
events/dopws06/. We invite tenders from all individuals who have relevant experience and expertise in their chosen workshop area. You do not have to be a member of the DOP to submit a tender.
Completed application to tender documents and required attachments must be received no later than 12 noon, 30 June 2006.
Should you require any further information please e-mail: [email protected] or call Kerry Wood or Sam Smith on 0116 252 9555.
Annual Occupational Psychology Conference 2007 – Call for submissions
10–12 January 2007, Bristol Marriott Hotel City Centre
Submissions are invited from academics and practitioners addressing any topic within the broad area of occupational and organisational psychology. Further details including submission guidelines can be obtained from the BPS website ( under the conferences and events section All submissions will be online. The deadline for all submissions is Monday 7 August 2006.
All enquiries should be addressed to the BPS Conference Office. Tel: 0116 252 9555; e-mail: [email protected].
Postgraduate Occupational Psychology (POP) Conference 2007
9–10 January 2007, Marriott City Centre Hotel, Bristol
The next POP Conference will precede the Annual DOP Conference and provide the opportunity for postgraduates not only to present their research but also to participate in a series of skills workshops and networking sessions.
For further details please visit:
Annual Conference 2006 ‘Assertively Different’
Saturday 13 May 2006, Hamilton House, London
More details in February 2006 issue.
To register please visit the BPS website
conferences-&-events or call the BPS Conference Office (0116 252 9555).
Counselling Psychologists in Scotland (COPS) ‘Updates for Counselling Psychologists’
21–22 April, Glasgow Caledonian University
To include meetings and open discussions with the Registrar for current and prospective members.
No fee. Booking deadline: 18 April.
Enquiries to Dr Peter Glissov (tel: 0131 537 6905; e-mail: [email protected]). More information on the COPS website:$/dcop/
‘Managing Personal and Client Stress in Coaching Psychology’ one-day event
30 June 2006 at The Work Foundation, 3 Carlton Terrace, London, SW1Y 5DG, 10am to 5pm (registration from 9.30am)
Facilitator: Jenny Summerfield CPsychol.
For further details and information about the event see the ‘News Page’ of the SGCP website on For booking information please contact: Tracy White ([email protected]).
Further details of the 2006 event programme will soon be announced on the SGCP website, which will include a ‘Positive Psychology in Coaching Psychology’ one-day conference to be held in September 2006 and the SGCP 3rd Annual National Conference.
23rd Annual Conference
Lancaster University, 6–8 September 2006
Keynote presentations by Professor Randall Engle (Georgia Institute of Technology), Professor Ruth Byrne (Trinity College, Dublin) and the Cognitive Section prizewinner.
Three symposia are being planned on the following themes: Reasoning and psychopathology; Glucose and cognition; and Practical aspects of thinking research. Submission of ideas for additional symposia are welcome and should be made directly to the conference organisers, Linden J. Ball ([email protected]) or Sandra Sünram-Lea ([email protected]).
First call for papers
Submissions of papers and posters are invited. Electronic submission should be made at the Cognitive Section website, The deadline for submission of papers and posters is 5 May 2006. Details of postgraduate bursaries to attend the conference will be available via the website.
Pre-conference linked event
On the day before the conference (5 September) we are planning to host the annual meeting of the North of England Thinking Group (NET-Group) at Lancaster. This meeting will focus on the theme of ‘Reasoning, belief, and prior knowledge’ and will involve paper presentations and associated discussion. Statements of intent to contribute a brief paper at this meeting are welcome. This pre-conference event is open to all conference delegates.
Informal enquiries about the conference call for papers and the NET-Group meeting to Linden J. Ball ([email protected]).
New Ways of Working in Clinical Psychology
A joint study day with the Yorkshire Psychologists Post Qualification Training Committee to be held on Friday 26 May 2006 in the Thackray Museum, St James’ University Hospital, Leeds
This event is free to all members of Yorkshire DCP and Yorkshire Psychologists PQT. The cost to all other attendees is £60 for the day (lunch and refreshments included).
For further details contact Caroline Hicks ([email protected]).
‘Criminal prosecutions for the sexual transmission of HIV’
Friday 19 May 2006, 9am–5pm, The Work Foundation, 3 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DG
Presentations will include updates on recent prosecutions for the sexual transmission of HIV, related research and a consideration of medical ethics. The Faculty guidelines will be presented and focus groups will address the issues and challenges facing clinicians that work in this area.
Cost for delegates (lunch will be provided on the day, fee also includes VAT):
Full members £40.00; Assistants/
Trainees members £35.00; Non-members £55.00
Booking deadline: Friday 28 April 2006.
For booking forms, programme and other details please visit or contact Cathleen Taylor (e-mail: [email protected]; fax: 0116 252 9538; tel: 0116 252 9548).
Integration, Spirituality and the Emergence of Self
A two-day conference featuring workshops on applying holistic thinking to psychological practice will be held on 17–18 May 2006 at the Gillis Centre, Edinburgh.
Wednesday 17 May
Two whole-day workshops: either 'Coming into mind' (Margaret Wilkinson) or 'The authentic self' (Marcia Karp)
Thursday 18 May
‘MindBalancing: Including spirituality in your therapy work (whole day) (Reinhard Kowalski); or ‘Working with the emotional/spiritual body’ (morning) (Laura Steckler) followed by 'Taking a spiritual history' (afternoon) (Larry Culliford)
Cost including tea/coffee and lunches:
Holistic SIG members £65 (two days), £40 (one day); Non-members £80 (two days), £55 (one day)
For more information contact Fara McAfee ([email protected]
Annual General Meeting and One-Day Scientific Meeting
Saturday 6 May 2006, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham
(Park Campus)
For further details contact Catherine Steele ([email protected]).

Selected news from the boards

Professional Practice Board (3 February 2006)
l    Membership: Tribute was paid to two members of the board who had died over the Christmas period; Nick Barlow, deputy representative to the board for the Ethics Committee and Special Group of Psychologists and Social Service (see obituary letter, p.208); and Karen Ehlert, one of the Board’s representatives on the Royal Courts of Justice and the representative to the NHS Litigation Authority.
 l    New Ways of Working for Applied Psychologists (NWWAP): The seven Project Groups had held their initial meetings and the work of the Core Group
was progressing well. Multidisciplinary working was discussed including new working models. It was agreed that this project may have far-reaching implications for the working practices of many applied psychologists. For further information see
 l    Psychological therapies: Proposals for various psychological therapies events were discussed, including: regional public engagement lectures about psychological therapies; a seminar about the Layard proposals for improving access to psychological therapies; developing the BPS website to include information about psychological therapies for the public/members. It was agreed to support the seminar on psychological therapies to be held in April. A business case for the other proposals would be developed.
 l    PPB Work Plan and revised terms of reference: The Work Plan for 2006 was accepted, and revised terms of reference were recommended to go forward to the Trustees for approval.
 l    Understanding Personality Disorder report: It was agreed to support publication of the report via the web.
 l    Support Working Party: A pilot support service to members would be explored. Guidelines for this work would also be developed.
Membership and Professional Training Board (17 February 2006)
l    Counselling psychology professional/practitioner doctorate equivalent. It was agreed to establish a cross-Divisional working party consisting of the Chairs of all the Boards of Examiners to come forward with proposals on whether formal recognition of a professional/practitioner doctorate equivalent could be conferred upon those having successfully completed the Society’s qualification in counselling psychology.
l    Post-qualification contact with examiners. The board approved the contacting of examiners by candidates who had successfully completed a Society qualification to discuss ideas further to pursue their research interests as long as the examiner was happy to have their identity revealed.
l    Practising certificate. It was agreed that the wording of the practising certificate should be amended (see  Letters, p.207).
l    Recognition of members’ supervisory skills. The board supported in principle the proposal for the Recognition of Members’ Supervisory Skills project but wanted to see it applied across all of the Divisions.
Reports of Board of Trustees and Representative Council meetings are available to members on the BPS website –

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