hscicThe number of completed Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) applications has risen by more than 10% in the past year, new figures have revealed.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that during 2013/14 there were 13,000 DoLS applications completed by councils in England – a 10% increase on the 11,900 recorded in 2012/13.

The DoLS aim to ensure people in care homes and hospitals are looked after in a way that does not inappropriately restrict their freedom. The safeguards should ensure that a care home or hospital only deprives someone of their liberty in a safe and correct way, and that this is only done when it is in the best interests of the person and there is no other way to look after them.

Of the completed DoLS applications, 73% of individuals had only one application made for them during the reporting period, while 18% had two applications made and the remaining 9% had three or more applications.

In all, 7,600 applications – 59% – were granted, the highest percentage since the DoLS legislation came into force in 2009. The remainder were not granted because they failed one or more of the six DoLS assessment criteria. 

Older people are more likely to have a DoLS application made for them. In the group aged 85 and above the rate stood at 212 individuals per 100,000 of the population. The rate per 100,000 of the population for the 18-64 age group stood at seven individuals.

Also during the reporting period 8,500 DoLS authorisations were active and 5,800 ended, of which: 

70% (4,100 authorisations) were in place for 3 months or less

22% (1,300 authorisations) were in place for 3-6 months

8% (500 authorisations) were in place for more than 6 months.

The HSCIC’s figures report up to March 31, so do not reflect the impact of a Supreme Court ruling made on March 19 in cases of Cheshire West and P & Q, which effectively lowered the threshold for deprivation of liberty in care. Since the ruling was made, the number of DoLS applications has increased markedly – research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services found that councils expect DoLS applications to exceed 90,000 in 2014-15.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: “Depriving an individual of their liberty is a measure that is undertaken for the safety of the patient. The DoLS legal framework ensures that these individuals are only deprived of their liberty in a necessary and proportionate way.

 “It is hoped that this report will provide information which can help stakeholders understand the extent of DoL applications and their use within councils and nationally.”

The Law Commission has recently launched a 3-year project to consider how deprivation of liberty should be authorised and supervised in settings other than hospitals and care homes.