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Large rise in Deprivation of Liberty requests causes backlog

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has released its annual report on Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS).

 Deprivation of Liberty requests should be submitted by care homes and hospitals where patients lack the mental capacity to make a decision on their care or treatment. They are often used to restrain dementia patients, to prevent them from leaving care homes or harming themselves.

 Since the introduction of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, requests have risen dramatically.  In 2013, 7,200 requests were submitted, while 2014 saw more than 13,000. The CQC suggests that the rise in applications is positive, as “it shows willingness among providers to protect the rights of individuals, and encourage external scrutiny of their care when a vulnerable person might be deprived of their liberty.”

 However, as the number of requests have increased, a backlog of unresolved cases at local authorities has developed. At the end of 2014, there were 19,429 applications where the outcome was still not decided, compared with 359 at the end of 2013.

 The report has caused alarm among some groups, who are concerned that the backlog has resulted in thousands of vulnerable and elderly patients being illegally restrained in care homes.

 George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer's Society said: “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.”

 In addition, the report highlights that many care homes are still not following the correct procedures, with only 37% correctly notifying CQC when they have used Deprivation of Liberty.

 In response, the CQC have asked for the process to be simplified, “Both the House of Lords and the Supreme Court criticised the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards for their bewilderingly bureaucratic complexity”, said David Behan.  “I have considerable sympathy with this view, and welcome the decision by the government to ask the Law Commission to look for a framework that is simpler, while still protecting peoples’ rights.”

 Fiona Lowry, CEO of the Good Care Group, commented: “At Good Care Group, we support the protection of patient liberty, and endeavour to ensure patients can remain in their own home as long as is possible to meet their needs.”

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