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Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 22nd October 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 7:15 pm, 22nd October 2018

My Lords, I do not want to detain the Committee by revisiting too much of our debate on day 2, when the Minister stated that the local authority would decide for itself how to organise and manage how AMCPs will operate. My concern is that they must be trained to a uniformly high standard. Such training should include assessment in all the key domains of responsibility. They should be registered as an AMCP and subject to revalidation over time. These people will, potentially, hold an enormous amount of power over somebody who is vulnerable.

I am also concerned that, unless those professional standards are in place, we will have a problem with quality control. In the event of a concern being raised about an AMCP, it is important that they are formally registered with the local authority. I also raise the question of how they will be indemnified and who will be responsible for their appraisal and supervision. They must have honorary contracts with adjacent local authorities to enable them to act, because some local authorities have relatively confined geographical areas. Given that these should be professionals, they should be listed with their professional body as having specialised training and skills. Another reason for this is my worry that, if they are going to function in hospitals, and unless they have a formal honorary contract from the local authority and are registered, we may end up with a two-tier system between local authorities and hospitals. I am not sure how that is going to work.

Amendment 61A seeks to expand the range of people who can train to become an AMCP. I declare an interest as president of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; I was at its annual conference at the weekend. I did not add physiotherapists to the list when I wrote the amendment, because I had not had a chance to consult them. However, it was evident, from many inspirational presentations, that physiotherapists working in head injury, acute trauma and stroke units, and in mental health services, can often be key to rehabilitation and restore people dramatically to a degree of independence that others had not envisaged. They felt very strongly that they did not want to be excluded; they have a lot to offer and are keen to train up, which seems very sensible.

I have also come across a few—not many—doctors who have retired from their main clinical practice but remain on the medical register, still work in some capacity or another, and, in later life, have developed an interest in people with impaired capacity. They have years of experience behind them, particularly in old-age psychiatry and so on, and would like to train as an AMCP. The criteria on which to select people should be their motivation, personal skills and background experience. We should not judge them by their original clinical degree qualification, because that is arbitrary. It does not mean that just because you are a nurse, a clinical psychologist or a social worker you would be perfectly fitted to this role; nor does it follow that because you are a speech and language therapist or a physiotherapist or whatever, you would not be suitable to take on this role and these responsibilities.

I therefore hope that the Minister might be able to expand a little, or perhaps not even discuss it here but think again, on how we will ensure that the people who carry this responsibility are trained to a uniformly high standard, are properly indemnified, can be identified, are able to function properly and can be held to account for the way in which they take decisions and advise. I beg to move.