The process, known as Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), is used when patients who lack the mental capacity to consent need to be detained in a place like a hospital or care home.
It is only used in in circumstances where it would be in the best interest of the person and a proper authorisation process should be in place to ensure it is done lawfully.
New figures from NHS Digital indicated an 11% rise in DoLS applications in England compared to last year. Figures reached 217,235 during 2016/17, the highest since they were introduced in 2009. Meanwhile, thousands of applications have taken more than a year to be completed – despite the recommended time-frame of just three weeks.
Gavin Terry, Policy Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “These figures prove once again an issue we have been highlighting for years – that an unacceptable number of people are being left in limbo by a system that is too complex, over-stretched and under-resourced.
“Depriving anyone of their liberty must only ever be a last resort, and in the person’s best interests but too often we hear cases where people with dementia and carers are left confused and distressed by a system that fails to meet their needs.
“It is vital that the Government responds to the Law Commission’s proposals and takes forward a comprehensive plan of reform that ensures the rights of people with dementia not to be unlawfully deprived of their liberty are protected.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Councils are doing everything they can to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people and will continue to prioritise those most in need. Despite a 11 per cent increase in applications from 2015/16, the number of DoLS applications completed increased by 45 per cent.
“Following the Supreme Court judgment in March 2014, there was a just under 70 per cent increase in completed assessments from councils between 2014/15 and 2015/16. This increased activity has caused significant cost pressures on council budgets at a time when adult social care services face a £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.
“We have long warned of the need to overhaul the current DoLs process so that councils have the time and money to do this properly. Failure to do this both will have a damaging impact on crucial council services on which people rely and will lead to both some of the most vulnerable people in our communities continuing to face long waiting times for assessments.
“We look forward to working with government to develop a reformed, fully funded scheme so that councils can ensure that everyone who lacks mental capacity is at the heart of decisions made about their care.”