Care Home Residents 'Illegally Restrained', Says Watchdog

Warning Over Backlog Of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard Applications

02.02.2015

Elderly and vulnerable patients are being unlawfully detained in care homes, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned.

Care home staff must apply for a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards authorisation from local councils or hospital trusts before they take steps to prevent residents from leaving the premises. This is often a measure to prevent dementia patients from wandering or hurting themselves.

However, the inspector said a backlog of almost 20,000 applications awaiting approval means it is likely staff are still restraining residents while they wait for the paperwork to come through.

There were over 55,000 submissions for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards in the first six months of 2014/15, a significant increase on the amount submitted for the entire year of 2013/14.

"This raises serious questions and leaves the worrying potential of a person being unlawfully deprived of their liberty simply because the paperwork is yet to be completed," said George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Alzheimer's Society.

"Depriving anyone of their liberty has to be a last resort, but when necessary it is essential it is closely monitored, legal and always with the best interests of the person in mind."

Expert Opinion
An increase in applications for DoLS assessments was expected following the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Cheshire West case in 2014, but it is concerning that a backlog of around 20,000 submissions has built up. We hope that the government will take note and provide the necessary resources to ensure that DoLS assessments can be carried out promptly in all cases.

“It is vital that resources are provided to ensure that all applications are dealt with promptly so that vulnerable adults are provided with the protection the system was designed to provide and they are not being deprived of their liberty due to delays in their assessment."
Mathieu Culverhouse, Associate