A systematic review and narrative synthesis of the research provisions under the Mental Capacity Act (2005) in England and Wales: Recruitment of adults with capacity and communication difficulties

Oluseyi Florence Jimoh, Hayley Ryan, Anne Killett, Ciara Shiggins, Peter E. Langdon, Rob Heywood, Karen Bunning

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The Mental Capacity Act (MCA, 2005) and its accompanying Code of Practice (2007), govern research participation for adults with capacity and communication difficulties in England and Wales. We conducted a systematic review and narrative synthesis to investigate the application of these provisions from 2007 to 2019.

Methods and findings:
We included studies with mental capacity in their criteria, involving participants aged 16 years and above, with capacity-affecting conditions and conducted in England and Wales after the implementation of the MCA. Clinical trials of medicines were excluded. We searched seven databases: Academic Search Complete, ASSIA, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycArticles, PsycINFO and Science Direct. We used narrative synthesis to report our results. Our review follows Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and is registered on PROSPERO, CRD42020195652.

28 studies of various research designs met our eligibility criteria: 14 (50.0%) were quantitative, 12 (42.9%) qualitative and 2 (7.1%) mixed methods. Included participants were adults with intellectual disabilities (n = 12), dementia (n = 9), mental health disorders (n = 2), autism (n = 3) and aphasia after stroke (n = 2). We found no studies involving adults with acquired brain injury. Diverse strategies were used in the recruitment of adults with capacity and communication difficulties with seven studies excluding individuals deemed to lack capacity.

We found relatively few studies including adults with capacity and communication difficulties with existing regulations interpreted variably. Limited use of consultees and exclusions on the basis of capacity and communication difficulties indicate that this group continue to be under-represented in research. If health and social interventions are to be effective for this population, they need to be included in primary research. The use of strategic adaptations and accommodations during the recruitment process, may serve to support their inclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0256697
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2021

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