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Occupational therapists should support patients in challenging decisions

Monday 8th January 2018
New draft guidance from NICE states that patients with mental capacity but challenging decisions to make should be provided with support by health and social care professionals. Image: jacoblund via iStock
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Occupational therapists are among the health and social care professionals who should be providing support to patients who face challenges in making decisions about their health or treatment for themselves, according to new guidance.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new advice on this matter for healthcare workers. It explains what they should do if they think a patient has made an unwise or risky decision; they shouldn't simply regard them as being incapable of making their own mind up.

Instead, NICE is calling on health and social care experts to ensure these patients are provided with extra support and given more information on all of their options, including any potential risks, so that they are able to make better-informed decisions about their future.

Nageena Khalique QC, vice-chair of the NICE committee behind the new draft guidance and a barrister at No5 Chambers, commented: "Our draft guidance will help empower and support people who do have capacity to overcome difficulties they may face when making decisions.

"They should be provided with the right information to support that specific decision. Health and social care professionals should also make sure families, friends and carers are involved in these discussions."

The new draft guidance from NICE also clarifies what it means for a patient to have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

In the event that a brain injury or degenerative condition has affected an individual's mental capacity so they are unable to make their own decisions, their next of kin should be supported by occupational therapists or other healthcare experts to make informed decisions on their behalf.

If there is no one suitable to make these decisions, the responsibility should fall to a medical expert, but encouraging patients to set out advance care plans in the earlier stages of their illness so that they can outline their wishes for their future care ahead of time can help to avoid unwanted decisions being made on their behalf.

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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