Capacity in intoxicated patients

RRV with blurred paramedic

A question was raised at the clinical briefing last week about whether someone has capacity if they are intoxicated.

From a clinical perspective, in order to have capacity the individual must be able to make specific decisions relating to their care. Substance abuse, including intoxication, has the potential to bring about a temporary lack of capacity. Clinicians must therefore consider capacity, and the completion of a Capacity to Consent form, on those occasions when an individual is intoxicated and is refusing what the clinician considers to be the correct care and/or treatment.

However, this does not detract from the Zero Tolerance process in relation to violence and aggression.

Having checked the legal position with NHS Protect’s Legal Protection Unit, it is clear that if a person drinks and is intoxicated, then that person is culpable for any assault committed – including those on you as frontline staff. A lack of capacity is not an acceptable reason for violence and aggression.

Please remember that intoxication is no defence to assault, and it’s really important to report any acts of violence or aggression made towards you in the line of duty. 

Published 10th August, 2015

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