How long does a mental capacity assessment take?

We are often asked how long it takes ‘to do’ a mental capacity assessment. The reality is a lot longer than most people think. When people think of a mental capacity assessment, they tend to think solely of the face to face element. In practice this is just one of 3 phases involved in the actual assessment process

The 3 phases of a mental capacity assessment

Any assessment of mental capacity involves three key stages, all of which are vital to achieving the right outcome. Phase 1 information gathering, Phase 2 the face to face assessment and Phase 3 the holistic analysis stage. All these stages are intrinsically interlinked and vital to every assessment. Failure to properly execute just one of the stages is likely to result in a less than robust outcome.

Phase 1 – Information gathering

This is the most common phase to be omitted when assessing mental capacity and means that the information given during an assessment cannot be validated. By gathering the correct information prior to the start of an assessment you can better prepare and greatly reduce the risk of obtaining the wrong outcome.

At TSF we have worked hard to ensure this element of the process is a robust and easy for the client as possible. Our specialist Client Liaison Officers know exactly what information is required for each type of decision being assessed. Working with the client they will gather this information to ensure our assessors have all the necessary information before the assessment. Depending on the complexity of the decision being assessed this process can takes between one and two hours.

Phase 2 – The face to face assessment

This is the phase that most people think about when they use the term ‘mental capacity assessment’. The length of time that this takes can be affected by a number of different factors such as the number of decisions being assessed, the complexity of the decisions being assessed and the level of support an individual needs to participate in the assessment. You should expect this phase to last, on average between an hour and a half and two hours.

The assessment itself involves time for the assessor to build a repour with the client, ensuring they feel comfortable and that the communication methods being used are appropriate for the individual. The assessor will then engage in conversation that covers the specific items being assessed and any other contextual information.

At TSF we realise that this element of the assessment is crucial in terms of engagement with the individual and ensuring all the right information is gathered to reach the correct outcome. Spending to little time on this element is likely to lead to insufficient information to reach the correct outcome. Conversely, spending too long can result in the individual becoming unnecessarily fatigued and disengaged from the process, which can also lead to the wrong outcome.

Phase 3 – The Critical analysis stage

This is often considered the ‘hidden’ stage of an assessment. Once the face to face assessment has taken place it is essential that the assessor has time to reflect upon their outcomes. Ideally at this stage they should be challenged to consider their outcomes from every angle to ensure that their analysis and conclusion are robust and will stand up to scrutiny from legal challenge. This stage also consists of writing up a report and can take up to seven hours in total, depending on the complexity of the assessment.

TSF were the first mental capacity assessors to introduce an internal checking system for our reports – something that is fast becoming accepted as best practice in the industry. We have a separate team whose sole responsibility is to challenge the reports and rationale of our assessors to ensure that their outcomes are fully considered and are as robust as they possibly can be.