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Mental Capacity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench 4:00 pm, 1st February 2005

I rise to contribute briefly to the debate. I want to return to what was said by my noble friend Lady Masham, for which I have immense sympathy. She is always on the side of the sick patient and the needs of the frail person. Unfortunately, we know that quite a number of elderly people in our hospitals suffer from malnutrition because they are not adequately fed or provided with sufficient hydration. That is bad practice, some of which comes about because such people need a lot of care and attention, which takes up a tremendous amount of time. Professor Ian Philp, who is the leader of the national service framework, is doing a great deal to try to change the position so that good practice becomes the norm. That is an excellent initiative and I wish that it were given the legal force that I think it needs. Best practice must be observed everywhere in this country and it should not be diminished, as is often the case at the moment.

However, we must recognise that nothing in the Bill would diminish good practice because it is at the forefront of what is being talked about. The "basic care" of a patient includes keeping that patient comfortable with sufficient hydration and nutrition where they can take food. Here we are considering intrusive treatments as opposed to "basic care"—which comprises keeping someone's mouth moist and ensuring that they remain comfortable and reasonably happy.

I sympathise deeply with what has been said by both the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, and my noble friend Lady Masham. Whenever a patient receives bad treatment we must fight that, but in my view that should not be done through this Bill, which has at its heart the best interests of the patient. This issue is covered by the principles of best practice and would not be addressed by seeking to change the Bill.