About the Study

‘Who Decides?’ is a study examining practitioner decision-making in the context of inpatient adolescent mental healthcare. The practical and resource problems in relation to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are well known and much discussed, but it is also governed by an incredibly complex legal framework. Decisions are being made at the interface of three legislative frameworks: the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983, the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 and the Children Act (CA) 1989.


What is the purpose of the study?

The study aims to investigate how practitioners navigate the legal framework governing decision-making about admission and treatment of children and young people in inpatient mental health facilities, with a view to informing future law and policy in this area.

This is an under-researched and highly complex area of law. Practitioner experiences are essential in understanding how the law is being implemented in practice, and this research will contribute to the limited existing literature in this area. There is also a need to understand how the law is working in practice to inform efforts to reform the law in this area.

What does the Study involve?

The Study involves semi-structured interviews with health and social care professionals working within Tier 4 inpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in England.

To find out more about what taking part would involve and if you are eligible, please visit the Participant Information page.


Who is Running the Study?

The study is organised by Martha Scanlon, a PhD student at the University of Bristol Law School.


The research is being supervised by Professor Judy Laing, Professor Sheelagh McGuinness, who are based at the Centre for Health, Law, and Society at University of Bristol Law School, and Dr Suzanne Doyle-Guilloud, who is based at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland Galway.

Ethical Approval

This Research has been granted ethical approval by the University of Bristol Law School Research Ethics Committee (the LREC).


Funding is provided through a Wellcome Trust studentship as part of the BABEL (Balancing Best Interests in Healthcare Ethics and Law) project at the University of Bristol.

The Wellcome Trust is a charity that aims to improve health and wellbeing.

Please share this information within your professional networks or with any contacts who may be interested in taking part. However, please refrain from sharing this information via NHS mailing lists or noticeboards.