People often wrongly believe that their ‘next of kin’ can make these treatment and care decisions for them.
Waiting times for Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) applications
There has been increasing media attention recently on the processing delays for Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs), a legal document that lets you give someone you trust the power to make decisions on your behalf.
The Office of the Public Guardian, who processes these forms, have stated waiting times for LPA applications can take up to 20 weeks to be processed.
Recent engagement on a tweet by Clare Fuller got me thinking about how prominent this wait time is becoming in our work.
The people we support are telling us this issue is having a negative impact on their peace of mind in the present, and is sometimes resulting in people’s wishes not being respected at the end of life. In Clare’s words, we can’t overstate the importance of having documents in place before they’re needed, rather than waiting for a crisis.
It’s making headlines
News articles over the past months have increasingly covered these stories too, describing the emotional toll placed on relatives who need to make critical healthcare decisions with no legal documentation in place.
The following articles are just a few stories we’ve seen in the news:
- Timeline of misery: one couple’s year-long wait for power of attorney
- ‘I can’t look after Mum because the OPG lost her power of attorney application’
- Relief for couple after long wait for Lasting Power of Attorney
- The importance of planning ahead for Lasting Powers of Attorney
We frequently hear from callers on our information line who tell us they are experiencing these lengthy delays when sending their forms off to be registered. According to the Office of the Public Guardian, the Coronavirus Pandemic has caused wait times to almost double. Sadly, some callers tell us they won’t live that long.
What does this mean for treatment and care decisions?
A LPA for Health and Welfare gives someone you trust the power to make decisions over your treatment and care; this can include decisions about where you would like to be cared for and any medical treatment.
However, until your LPA is registered by the Office of the Public Guardian, the person you appoint as your attorney has no power to make these decisions for you. This means that if you lose capacity to make decisions about your treatment and care while you wait for your LPA to be processed, the doctor looking after you will make treatment decisions for you.
Completing this documentation sooner rather than later is becoming increasingly important.
What can you do while you wait?
Despite these long waiting times, there are things you can do to ensure your wishes are followed while you are waiting for a LPA to be registered. If you have strong wishes about treatment you do not want to be given, you can document this for free and in a legally binding way by making a living will (advance decision). A living will allows you to record any medical treatments you do not want to be given. It applies when you lose capacity and can not make decisions for yourself.
We often support callers that fear they may lose capacity before an LPA can be processed.
A living will is legally binding and can be used as soon as it is signed and witnessed.
This means there are no delays to having your decisions documented. This ensures you are covered for that period of time it takes for a LPA to be processed.
Once the LPA is processed, a living will can also be helpful for your attorney as it can back them up as it helps demonstrate that they are making decisions in your best interests. It also means that your wishes about treatment are known even if your attorneys are not contactable in an emergency.
Our website explains how LPAs and living wills work together.
For further support on how to create a living will and/or a LPA, contact our free nurse-led information line on 0800 999 2434.