Mental capacity and deprivation of liberty safeguards

What are Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)?

BSL Support

A person is deemed to have mental capacity if they are able to make and communicate their own decisions.

Some people living in hospitals or care homes cannot make their own decisions about their care and treatment because they do not have the mental capacity to do so.

These people need extra protection to make sure that they do not suffer harm.

For example, in situations where delivering the necessary care requires their personal freedoms to be restricted to the point of actually depriving them of their liberty.

DoLS protect people:

  • Who lack mental capacity from being detained when this is not in their best interests
  • To give people the right to challenge a decision.

What is deprivation of liberty 

The Supreme Court ruling in March 2014 identified a deprivation of liberty as occurring when an individual who lacks capacity to make decisions about their treatment and care is subject to constant supervision and control and is not free to leave.

This could include:

  • Forcing a person to take medication against their will
  • Staff exercise complete control over a person's care and movements
  • Staff making all decisions about a person's assessments, treatments, visitors, being released into the care of others and where they can live
  • Staff refusing to discharge someone to the care of relatives or others
  • Preventing someone from seeing friends or family.

Mental Capacity Act / Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (MCA DoLS)

The Mental Capacity Act / Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (MCA DoLS) covers people in hospitals or care homes:

  • Who lack the capacity to make their own decisions
  • When their personal freedoms need to be restricted in their best interests.

If you are a social worker or other health care professional and think that someone is being deprived of their liberty, you should:

  • Discuss the case with the hospital or care home
  • Advise them to apply for a Deprivation of Liberty authorisation - before you apply for an authorisation you should ALWAYS consider providing care or treatment in ways which avoid depriving someone of their liberty
  • Report your concerns the to the Team Manager, MCA/DoLS.