Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

A definition of depriving someone of their liberty

Someone who is either a patient in hospital or living in a care home and who is unable to give consent to the care or treatment they require may need protection to ensure they don't suffer harm. This may mean restricting their freedom to the point of depriving them of their liberty such as preventing them from leaving the care home or ward to keep them safe.

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS)

The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) are part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. They are designed to protect people in care homes and hospitals from being inappropriately deprived of their liberty by:

  • preventing arbitrary decisions that deprive adults at risk of their liberty
  • ensuring they can be given the care they need in the least restrictive way
  • providing them with rights to challenge unlawful detention.

The DOLS provide a lawful way for a hospital or care home to deprive a person of their liberty, provided that:

  • it is in the person's best interest
  • it is necessary to keep them from harm
  • it is a proportionate response to the likelihood and seriousness of harm.

The DOLS apply to someone in this situation who is:

  • aged 18 or over
  • who suffers from a mental disorder or disability, such as dementia, brain injury or a profound learning disability
  • who is unable to give informed consent to the arrangements made for their care and / or treatment
  • for whom deprivation of liberty is considered to be necessary to protect them from harm.

If you are worried that a person you know may be deprived of their liberty

If a person you know is living in a care home or is a patient in hospital and you have concerns that they are being deprived of their liberty, you should:

  • urgently discuss the person's care plan with the home or ward manager
  • ask the manager to refer the person to the East Sussex DOLS Team
  • contact the DOLS Team directly (see below).

Advice for managers of care homes or hospital wards

If you are a manager of a care home or ward and care for a person who you believe must be deprived of their liberty in order to be safeguarded, you should consider the following:

Does the person lack the capacity to consent to the measures you wish to take?
Yes: Application is required
No: Application cannot be made

Can the person receive care through less restrictive but still effective alternatives?
Yes: Application cannot be made
No: Application may be required

Is the person 18 years of age or older (or going to turn 18 within 28 days)?
Yes: Application may be required
No: Application cannot be made

Is the person detained under the Mental Health Act?
Yes: Application cannot be made
No: Application is required

Should the authorisation for a deprivation of liberty begin immediately?
Yes: Grant urgent authorisation and apply
No: Apply for a standard authorisation up to 28 days in advance

To apply for authorisation of a deprivation of liberty, contact East Sussex DOLS Team


MHA Referral Line
2nd Floor, St Mary's House
52 St Leonards Road
East Sussex
BN21 3UU

Phone: 01323 464329
Fax: 01323 464504

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