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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 22nd October 2018.

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Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 8:30 pm, 22nd October 2018

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for introducing this clause stand part debate. We had a chat earlier, so I shall not formally respond to her but instead deal with the amendments as laid, if that is all right with everybody. Clearly, these are very important issues that need to be dealt with properly.

Amendment 84 would allow individuals to provide advance consent to arrangements enabling care or treatment that would otherwise amount to a deprivation of liberty. As noble Baronesses have commented, the Law Commission recommended that provision should be made in the Bill to allow this. This would mean saying that cared-for people entering certain settings, such as hospitals and end-of-life care, where the arrangements are predictable and time limited, would not be required to undergo additional assessments if they needed to be deprived of their liberty. In the Government’s response to the Law Commission, we agreed that people should have choice and control over future decisions being made on their behalf, but we said that we needed to look at the detail of this specific proposal. I understand that there is enthusiasm among some noble Lords for such a recommendation, particularly, as has been said, as a way of alleviating unnecessary assessments for those in palliative and end-of-life care.

On palliative care, before I get on to more general concerns, I think it is important to note that the Government have issued some guidance about consent in the context of palliative care in the last few weeks of life. I realise that this talks only about one part of the time period that we might be talking about. The guidance says that if an individual has capacity to consent to arrangements for their care at the time of their admission, or at a time before losing capacity, and does consent, this consent would cover the period until their death, hence there is no deprivation of liberty. However, the guidance is also clear that this consent would no longer be valid if significant extra restrictions were put in place, after this point, to which the person had not consented. So there is a situation that pertains to people right at the end of life and provides some opportunity for challenge if restrictions change.

If we extend that time period out, not just to weeks but to months and years, it has been brought to light in this debate that, while there is a desire to make sure that a person’s advance consent is taken seriously and given legal force, concerns have also been raised, not least by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, about extending the application in such a way that it could actually deprive people of their protections and human rights. These are clearly concerns that we need to take seriously.

Concerns have also been expressed to the department, in engagement with stakeholders, that the inclusion in statute law of advance consent to being deprived of liberty might imply that there is an expectation that people should have an advance statement of wishes in place, and that people may be pressured into making an advance statement. I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, that in some ways planning for the future may be a good thing but, equally, we do not want to force people to plan for the future when their desire is not to. We protect the right of people to make bad decisions; that is an important part of a person having a sense of agency and autonomy. Concerns have been expressed that that would be put in danger and people would feel pressured to do something that they might not wish to do.

Clearly, the Law Commission made this recommendation with highly laudable aims. However, we have concerns and are not yet convinced of the merits of the amendment. We have tried to deal with some of the issues around integrating planning through the creation of a system based on the production of a care plan. We have talked about the inclusion of a statement of wishes. I would like to know more about the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, about advance statements of wishes. I would like to follow that up and understand it a bit better. The process we are envisaging would allow the inclusion of advance decisions to refuse treatment as part of future care planning. That is not affected by what we are discussing here but that would be allowed. We are not convinced of the merits of the amendment—indeed, we have some concerns about the implications of it—but I would be keen to understand a bit more about previous discussions of this topic and whether there are other ways to provide that sense of agency for the person who will be cared for without producing undue pressure on them or legal force in a way that would go against their interests and, in legal terms, their human rights.

Amendment 85 would create a new civil court remedy against some private care providers, including non-NHS hospitals and private care homes, if they have deprived someone of their liberty unlawfully. Again, this provision was proposed by the Law Commission. However, we do not believe that a new legal remedy is required. There is already an ability to seek damages under the Human Rights Act on the basis of a breach of Article 5 and usually Article 8. This is available in private cases, where a private care provider is depriving a self-funder of their liberty unlawfully. A remedy could be sought against the public authority responsible for the deprivation. Obviously, we need to hold private care providers to the same standards that we hold public care providers to. There are already a number of mechanisms that allow for this, and the law provides for them. There is the criminal offence of false imprisonment, as well as the existing law of false imprisonment for civil claims. So people can already bring legal action against private care providers.

On top of this, the Care Quality Commission in England and the Care Inspectorate Wales would also ensure compliance with the liberty protection safeguards. Clearly, they have a range of enforcement actions available to them that apply to the public and private sector alike. Furthermore, as commissioners, local authorities will—and do—have a role in ensuring that private care providers fulfil their legal duties. The Government believe that sufficient levers are already in place and that the creation of an additional civil route could increase care providers’ insurance costs at a time when, as we all know, we are working hard to make sure that there is funding in the system to provide adequate and good-quality social care to everybody who needs it.

I understand and agree with the desire to hold private providers to the same standards that we hold public providers to, but we believe there are existing remedies within the system and there is no need to require or implement new ones. On that basis, I hope the noble Baroness will not move her amendments.