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Number of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards applications up 11 per cent

NHS Digital1 must be quoted as the source of these figures

Regional and individual local authority are data are available in this report

1 November 2017

The number of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards2(DoLS) applications submitted in 2016/17 increased to 217,000, compared with 196,000 the previous year, figures released by NHS Digital today show.

Mental Capacity Act (2005) Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (England) 2016/17 shows the number of applications completed was 152,000 - an increase of 45 per cent on 2015/16 when 105,000 were completed.

These figures show that four new applications were being made for every three being completed.

A 2014 Supreme Court ruling in the case known as the 'Cheshire West case'3 had the effect of lowering the threshold for what constituted 'deprivation of liberty'. This has been a contributing factor to a higher number of DoLS applications over the last three years.

The report shows large regional variations4 for overall applications received, the proportion of applications deemed urgent, and the average time from receipt of application to sign off:

Overall Applications

The North East region had 995 DoLS applications per 100,000 of the adult population, more than double the England-wide average of 492 applications per 100,000 adults.

A contributing factor to this higher rate was supervisory bodies in the North East granting authorisations for a shorter period of time, requiring more frequent applications as each authorisation runs out. The proportion of authorisations signed off that were planned to last less than 90 days was highest in the North East at 24 per cent  compared to 8 per cent in the East Midlands where it was the lowest, and 17 per cent nationally.

Proportion of applications classified as urgent5

There was a wide variation in the proportion of applications that were classified as urgent, ranging from 33 per cent in the London region to 71 per cent in the East Midlands. At a local authority level, the variations are wider still, ranging from 4 per cent at Wakefield Council to 93 per cent at South Gloucestershire Council. The average nationally was 50 per cent.

Application time frames

The average number of days from applications being received to being completed across England was 120 days, but there were wide variations across regions. East Midlands had the highest average number of days per application at 211 days, with councils there averaging between 83 days (Derby City Council) and 319 days (Lincolnshire County Council).

The region with the lowest average number of days per application was the North East where the average application took 53 days to complete, with councils there averaging between 12 days (Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council) and 205 days (Northumberland County Council).


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1.                NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2016/17 financial year, NHS Digital published 292 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

2.                The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) are a legal framework that exist to ensure that individuals who lack the mental capacity to consent to the arrangements for their care, where such care may (because of restrictions imposed on an individual's freedom of choice or movement) amount to a "deprivation of liberty", have the arrangements independently assessed to ensure they are in the best interests of the individual concerned.

3.                The 'Cheshire West case' Supreme Court judgment

4.                All subsequent rates from this point in the news release until the end are calculated excluding data from Northamptonshire County Council, which was unable to supply a full dataset before the mandated deadline, although it was subsequently able to provide summary numbers (so the headline figures in the first three paragraphs of this release do include Northamptonshire County Council data).

5.                A person may need to be deprived of their liberty before the local authority can respond to a request for a standard authorisation. In these situations, the hospital or care home can grant an urgent authorisation for 7 days and at the same time request a standard authorisation from the local authority to assess and authorise before the urgent expires.  Where there is no requirement for an urgent request but where it is likely that at some point within the next 28 days that the person will be deprived of their liberty, the application can be made to the local authority as a standard request.

6.                The DoLS Code of Practice states that a standard DoLS application should be completed with 21 days of the local authority receiving the application. For urgent application these should be completed within 7 days of the managing authority granting an urgent authorisation. NHS Digital is unable to measure compliance with the 7 day standard as the date that the managing authority granted the urgent authorisation, the start of the seven day period, is not included in the DoLS dataset.

Capacity Act 2005: Deprivation of liberty safeguards - Code of Practice to supplement the main Mental Capacity Act 2005 Code of Practice - sections 4.9 to 4.11

7.                Figures over 100,000 in this release are rounded to the nearest 1,000

8.                For media enquiries please contact  or telephone 0300 30 33 888.

Last edited: 24 May 2021 3:24 pm