Best Interests Decisions Study (BIDS): researching the Mental Capacity Act

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Mental capacity means the ability to make decisions for oneself. In England and Wales mental capacity issues are covered by the Mental Capacity Act which came into force in 2007. People with serious mental health problems, people with learning disabilities and people with dementia may lack the capacity to make many decisions for themselves, in which case the law states that if the decision is made by someone else in must be done in the person's 'best interests'.

This research project aims to deliver evidence about the extent to which the Mental Capacity Act and its guidance are effective, particularly when best interests decisions are being made involving personal welfare, social care, and health care situations, and decisions involving property and financial affairs.

The objectives of the research are:

  • to determine the extent and scope of best interests decision making, in relation to different contexts and different groups of individuals who may lack capacity;
  • to analyse different models of practice in determining best interests;
  • to discover the factors taken into account in best interests decisions;
  • to analyse what elements lead to 'effective practice', and also what obstacles are hindering progress of the MCA.  

The research involves collecting evidence from people working in health, social care and legal settings using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies methodologies. The Mental Health Foundation has developed an online research tool to gather data for the project. The tool, called BRIDGET, can also be used by anyone who has been involved in a best interest decision to evaluate how well the process met the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act and its Code of Practice. The tool is free and confidential to use and you do not have to be participating in the BIDS study to use it. When you have completed the question you will receive almost immediately an automated report indicating how well the process met the requirements of the Act and the Code of Practice.

The project is being led by staff at Bristol University's Norah Fry Centre, and the Mental Health Foundation and Bradford University's Dementia Group are both partners on the project.


Download the report

Toby Williamson
Toby Williamson

Toby specialises in mental health in later life, dementia and mental capacity.