Hospitals and care homes can legally restrict the freedom of people who can't make decisions for themselves in order to provide care and treatment - but only if they follow the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. If you or someone you know is facing restrictions that you think are unfair, we may be able to help.

Most of the time, hospitals and care homes can only provide treatment to adults if they consent to it. Some people with mental health conditions, brain injuries and other medical problems might not be able to provide this consent or make decisions about their care. In these cases, the caregiver can apply for authorisation to restrain the person, or prevent them from leaving their placement, in order to provide the care and treatment they need.

This is called a 'deprivation of liberty' and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards set out rules that care homes and hospitals must follow when they limit people's freedom in this way. The safeguards require that any deprivation of liberty is in the person's best interests and is formally authorised by independent professionals.

Our Public Law & Human Rights team can help with:

  • Challenging an existing deprivation of liberty authorisation for you or someone you know
  • Challenging unauthorised deprivation of liberty
  • Appealing decisions in the Court of Protection

Our solicitors have been involved with landmark Deprivation of Liberty cases, such as the Cheshire West case, which went to the Supreme Court and changed the law to require regular independent reviews for all people who are deprived on their liberty. This experience with the law at the highest level means we can offer you the best possible advice and representation.

If you are involved with a dispute about a deprivation of liberty, get in touch with us today to find out what our Public Law & Human Rights solicitors can do for you. Call free on 0800 028 1943 or fill out our online contact form and we'll get back to you.

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Deprivation Of Liberty Safeguards - More Information

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Deprivation of Liberty Assessments Work?

DoLS assessments decide whether deprivations of liberty are allowed to happen.

Care homes and hospitals can request an assessment for adults who don’t already have deprivation of liberty authorisation. You can also request assessment review for an adult who is currently under deprivation of liberty authorisation if you think the deprivation is unnecessary.

Assessments are carried out by a best interests assessor and a mental health assessor appointed by the relevant local authority or health board. They must not be associated with the person’s care or any other decisions about their wellbeing.

The assessment covers six questions in order to decide if the deprivation of liberty should be authorised:

  • Is the person aged 18 years or over?
  • Do they have a mental disorder?
  • Do they lack the mental capacity to make decisions about their care?
  • Is deprivation of liberty in the person’s best interests?
  • Should they be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 instead?
  • Would authorisation conflict with any advance decision the person has made or with any decisions made by a court-appointed deputy or someone with lasting power of attorney?

If the assessors authorise a deprivation of liberty, they will decide how long the authorisation should last, up to a maximum of 12 months. Care homes and hospitals must apply for a new assessment once this authorisation runs out in order to continue the deprivation of liberty any longer.

Care home and hospitals can grant themselves urgent DoLS authorisation for 7 days without an assessment in emergencies.

What Does 'Lacking Mental Capacity' Mean?

Mental capacity is defined by someone's ability to make a decision. In order to have the capacity to make a decision, someone must be able to:

  • Understand what the decision involves
  • Remember information long enough to make a decision about it
  • Use and weigh up the information to reach a decision
  • Communicate the decision

If an adult is able to do all of these things, they have sufficient mental capacity to make a decision. They cannot be subject to a deprivation of liberty unless they agree to be.

If an adult is unable to do any of these things, they lack the mental capacity to make a decision.

Read more about how we can help people with reduced mental capacity on our Court of Protection page.

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