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Huge leap in number of bids to curb liberty

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A record number of requests have been made by hospitals and care homes to deprive people of their liberty, LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal reports.

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There were 11,890 Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) requests made in England during 2012-13 - a 66 per cent rise on 2009-10, when the safeguards were introduced.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said there had been year-on-year increases in the number of applications completed in every year since the introduction of DOLS.

Councils and local health authorities can approve placing restraints or restrictions on people who are deemed to lack the mental capacity to consent to their care or treatment. These can include those with dementia or learning disabilities.

Deprivation of liberty may involve, for example, the use of physical restraint, or the forcible administration of medication.

The HSCIC report showed that just over half of the applications (55 per cent) were granted last year.

Dementia was recorded as the primary disability in 54 per cent of the applications.

DOLS aim to make sure that people in care homes and hospitals are looked after in a way that does not inappropriately restrict their freedom.

They should ensure that a care home or hospital only deprives someone of their liberty in a safe way, and when there is no other way to look after them.

If a person is to be deprived of liberty, a care home must follow a strict process. This includes providing the person with a representative, giving the person or representative the right to challenge the order through the Court of Protection and a regular review of the situation.

Last week MPs warned that DOLS are often used incorrectly.

The Commons health committee said: “There is considerable confusion around the scope of the safeguards and how and when to apply them in practice.

“The evidence the committee heard regarding the application of DOLS revealed a profoundly depressing and complacent approach to the matter.

“There is extreme variation in their use and we are concerned that some of the most vulnerable members of society may be exposed to abuse because the legislation has failed to implement controls to properly protect them.”

The MPs called for an urgent review of the system.

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