Health power of attorney

A health power of attorney is a legal document that lets you give someone you trust the power to make decisions for you. The legal name is lasting power of attorney (LPA) for health and welfare.

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Making a health power of attorney keeps you in control if you lose the ability (you lack mental capacity) to make decisions or speak for yourself because of an accident or illness.

A health power of attorney allows someone to make decisions about:

  • where you live and are cared for
  • your daily routine and diet
  • medical care and treatment options
  • people you see and spend time with

Important: Important

Your relatives have no legal right to make decisions for you if you have not made them health power of attorney.

Why people make a health power of attorney

You might lose the ability to make decisions or speak for yourself because of an accident or illness. If this happens and a decision needs to be made about your treatment or care your family should be involved, but they will not have the final say.

Some people decide to make a health power of attorney because they:

  • want to stay in control
  • have seen relatives left out of important decisions
  • want to make things easier for their family
  • are getting older and want to be prepared
  • have been diagnosed with a serious illness

By making a health power of attorney you can make sure that the people who know you best are involved in your care and can make important decisions for you.

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“When I was diagnosed with dementia I was really worried about someone I didn’t know being in charge of my care. Giving my daughter power of attorney has given both of us such peace of mind knowing that once I can no longer make decisions for myself, she’ll be speaking for me.”

Brenda, 76

Make a health power of attorney

Anyone over the age of 18 with mental capacity can make a health power of attorney. To make one you need to:

  1. Choose one or more people you trust (known as attorneys)
  2. Complete the form
  3. Register the form with the Office of the Public Guardian (this can take up to 10 weeks)
  4. Tell your relatives, GP and others involved in your care

In England and Wales you can make a power of attorney yourself using the GOV.UK website.

In Scotland it is called a welfare power of attorney. In Northern Ireland there is no health power of attorney.

Finance power of attorney

There are other types of power of attorney for property and finance including:

  • Lasting power of attorney for property and financial affairs (England and Wales) – find more information about this on the Government website.
  • Continuing power of attorney (Scotland) – find more information about this on the Government website.
  • Enduring power of attorney (Northern Ireland) – find more information about this on the Government website.
Enduring power of attorney

Enduring power of attorney (EPA) was replaced by lasting power of attorney in 2007. If you have an EPA it can still be used to make decisions about property and finance, but it does not cover decisions about health. Therefore, if you want to appoint someone to make decisions for you about your health and care, you will need to make a new health power of attorney.

Fees

If you complete the form yourself it will cost £82 to register. You may be able to get a reduction or exemption.

It’s important to register your form with the Office of the Public Guardian once it’s finished, otherwise it cannot be used.

Using a solicitor

You do not need to use a solicitor, but some people are more comfortable using one. They can charge around £500 (sometimes it’s much more) and will use the same Government form.

We can help you complete your form

If you do not want to use a solicitor, we can help you write your power of attorney for free. You can contact us by:

Change or end your health power of attorney

The GOV.UK website explains what to do if you want to make changes or end your health power of attorney.

Health power of attorney and living will (advance decision)

A health power of attorney lets you give someone you trust the power to make decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself. It covers any decision about treatment and care, for example where you live, your daily routine and treatment decisions.

A living will is a form written by you to refuse medical treatments in advance. It only covers decisions about refusing specific medical treatments.

They are both legally binding, and cannot be used unless you lose the ability to make decisions or speak for yourself because of an accident or illness.

If you need support deciding which form is right for you contact us:

Can I have a health power of attorney and a living will?

Yes, you can have both a health power of attorney and a living will, they work well together.

If you make a health power of attorney it is important that you tell your attorney what you do and do not want to happen to you. This will help the person you choose as your attorney to make important decisions, and will prove to doctors and care staff that they are acting in your best interests.

You should make an advance statement to say what care you want, and a living will (advance decision) if there are specific treatments that you do not want. You can say that your attorney must follow your advance statement and living will in section 7 of the health power of attorney form.

Related content

There are different things you can do in advance to tell people what treatment and care you will want in the future.

  • Living will (advance decision) – used to refuse any medical treatments that you do not want to be given in the future
  • Advance statement – used to say what care you do want, for example where you want to live and be cared for
  • DNR form – a form you can only get from your doctor which is used to prevent people being given CPR inappropriately

The role of a health power of attorney

It is important that whoever you choose as your attorney is aware of the responsibilities and will act according to your wishes.

Responsibilities of an attorney

If you lack capacity to make decisions for yourself, then your attorney will be able to make any decisions about your treatment and care. They must act in your best interests.

These decisions might include:

  • where you live and are cared for
  • your daily routine and diet
  • medical care and treatment options
  • people you see and spend time with

You can add any instructions that your attorney must follow, or any preferences that you’d like them to take into account in section 7 of the health power of attorney form.

Important: Life-sustaining treatment

You will need to choose if your attorney has the right to make decisions about life-sustaining treatment (for example CPR or artificial ventilation) in section 5 of the health power of attorney form.

If you do not give them this right it will be left to the doctor in charge of your care to decide what is best for you, if a decision about life-sustaining treatment needs to be made.

How to choose an attorney

Your attorney can be anyone over the age of 18 including a friend or relative.

It is important to think about whether the person:

  • understands and respects your wishes
  • will stand up for what you want, even if a doctor disagrees
  • has the time to support you and be involved in your long-term care

You can choose one or more attorneys. If you have more than one, you will need to decide how they make decisions together in section 3 of the health power of attorney form.

Information:

If you do not have someone who can be your attorney then there are other ways that you can plan ahead.

If you need support deciding on your attorney you can contact us by:

Rights of an attorney

If you are the attorney for someone who no longer has capacity to make care and treatment decisions you should let their care team know about your role (you should show them the form). The treatment and care options available should be explained to you so you can make an informed decision on the person’s behalf. You cannot demand treatments on their behalf (for example, you cannot demand CPR is given if a doctor decides it is not medically appropriate). You have the right to access medical records if needed.

If someone (for example a doctor or care home manager) thinks you are not acting in the person’s best interests they can challenge your decision. If this happens you can ask for a best interests meeting. At this meeting you will need to explain why you think the decision is in the person’s best interests and may need to provide evidence (for example an advance statement or living will).

If after this meeting you have still not reached an agreement you can:

  • ask for a second opinion
  • involve an advocate
  • apply to the Court of Protection to make a decision
  • make a formal complaint to the hospital or care provider

If you need support as an attorney contact us by:

Page last reviewed: 14 January 2022
Next review due: 14 June 2022