30,000 People Illegally Detained Under DoLS. Could You be Acting Illegally?

New figures released by NHS Digital have shown that almost 30,000 people were wrongly detained under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) during 2015/16. A total of 195,840 DoLS applications were received by councils in England during this period – an increase of 44% on the previous year – but 28,530, representing 27% of the total number, were not granted.

Alzheimer’s Society’s Senior Policy Officer, Martina Kane, said: “The safeguards granted by DoLS are an essential part of protecting the right to liberty of people with dementia. It is disgraceful that nearly 30,000 people were wrongfully deprived of their liberty, and in over a quarter of cases practitioners are still locking people in, sedating them, restraining them or otherwise treating them as second class citizens. Depriving someone of their liberty should always be a last resort and only ever done in someone’s best interests. It is crucial that the quality of care provided to people with dementia is improved to ensure that.”

Read on to learn more about taking a correct approach to DoLS and how to avoid acting illegally.

The NHS Digital statistics show that although some DoLS applications come from hospitals, most are received from care homes, suggesting that there remains a lack of clarity about when an application is appropriate and that many care homes are illegally detaining people with dementia and restricting their freedoms. With the potential for providers to be subject to legal action from anyone deprived of their liberty illegally, it is essential you and your staff have a clear understanding of your responsibilities.

3 Steps to Avoid the Risk of Detaining Your Residents Illegally

  1. Know the 5 Mental Capacity Act (MCA) Principles: many staff find the MCA difficult to apply and it is certainly a complex piece of legislation. However, every staff member should be trained in, and be familiar with, the 5 key principles of the Act:
    1. A presumption of capacity
    2. The right for individuals to be supported to make their own decisions
    3. That individuals must retain the right to make what might be seen by others as unwise decisions
    4. Best interests – anything done for, or on behalf of, people without capacity must be in their best interests
    5. Least restrictive intervention – anything done for, or on behalf of, people without capacity should be an option that is less restrictive of their basic rights.
  2. Use a screening tool: DoLS screening tools help to guide assessors to a decision by using a formal, step-by-step approach to assessing whether or not a deprivation of liberty is required or is already taking place. Without using this type of process, there is a risk that a wrong assumption can be made and an urgent authorisation submitted without full consideration of the facts.
  3. Follow best practice guidance: the forms used to apply for a DoLS are understandably lengthy and require detailed information to be submitted. Questions can appear to be repetitive and if not answered correctly, can mean that incorrect responses are given. The Association for the Directors of Adult Social Services has produced detailed guidance which you can print and use as a resource for your staff team available here.

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