In your hands: power of attorney and patients

1 November 2023
Autumn 2023

Claire Moulds examines the impact of a power of attorney on the patient relationship.

More than six million people in England and Wales now have a lasting power of attorney (LPA) registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (2022), with that number increasing drastically in recent years, driven by an ageing population, an increase in conditions such as dementia and greater awareness of what a power of attorney is and does.  

To reflect the growing use of this tool, the new Education and Training Requirements (ETR) from the General Optical Council (GOC) state that a student must “understand the role of carers and the power of attorney” (GOC, 2021).

Power of attorney means that a patient has given someone they trust – their attorney – legal authority to make decisions that are in their best interest if they lack the mental capacity to do so (see Lasting power of attorney in the UK).

“An attorney appointed under a health and welfare LPA can, for example, arrange routine eye examinations or agree to a treatment plan on behalf of the patient,” says Ian Bond, Lifestyle and Estates Planning Partner at Irwin Mitchell legal advisers. “However, an attorney cannot make decisions until the LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, the body that oversees these arrangements.”

And, while it’s not a legal requirement, it is usual for patients to have the existence of a health and welfare LPA noted on their NHS record. 

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