The Mental Welfare Commission has launched a new campaign to explain the power of attorney to hospital ward staff, care home staff and GPs across Scotland. More and more people are using this legal route to give powers to someone they trust – usually a relative or close friend - to make decisions on their behalf when they are unable to do so themselves.

A power of attorney must be granted before a person becomes unable to manage their own affairs when, for example, they have dementia.

Without a power of attorney, important decisions about where a person lives, or how their finances are managed, may need complex legal procedures before any action can be taken.

As part of its campaign, the Commission has developed a new leaflet for staff in care homes and hospitals that explains the purpose of power of attorney, and gives a handy checklist of issues to be aware of when residents or patients have decided to appoint a power of attorney. The Commission has also created a quick guide for GPs, listing issues for their consideration when they are involved in certifying a power of attorney. These publications follow an earlier document that addressed some of the difficult questions that have arisen in the past for those dealing with power of attorney.

Kate Fearnley, Executive Director (Engagement & Participation) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “As power of attorney becomes more commonly used, we find that GPs and hospital and care home staff are not always aware of all of the issues involved.

“GPs may be asked to take a role in granting a power of attorney. Care home staff and hospital staff may be working with someone who has granted a power of attorney to a relative or friend, and should understand what’s involved.

“We hope the new quick guides we have produced will answer some of the questions that can arise.”

The Power of Attorney quick guide for staff in hospitals and care homes is available on the web or in hard copy from the Commission.

The Power of Attorney quick guide for general practitioners is available on the Commission’s website.

The third document – Common Concerns with Powers of Attorney – is available on the web or in hard copy.