The Deprivation of Liberty

What is the deprivation of liberty (DOLS)?

The deprivation of liberty (DOLS) has been a debated part of safeguarding within the healthcare sector for some time. It can be said that there is a line between caring for people or a person and preventing harm can be too much and can instead deprive the individual of their own entitled human rights. Finding the balance in the area of safeguarding has always been the key. There are instances where a person simply cannot make a safe or proper decision for themselves and hence DoLS has come into place.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) is a care mechanism that creates a flexible framework to deliver appropriate protection and care to those considered at risk or vulnerable who are in hospital, a care home or other caregiving environment. DoLS is a set of procedures and policies implemented to ensure that article 5 of the Human Rights Act that clearly states ‘everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty [unless] in accordance with a procedure prescribed in law’ is adhered to.

In simple terms, DoLS can be explained as keeping someone who cannot mentally make safe or proper decisions

It may be someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease for example, safe from the harm caused by making a decision that could cause harm. DoLS is a safeguarding framework that, in order to a protect an at-risk individual from harm, said an individual person might have to have some of their liberties removed and have decisions made for them. However, any deprivation of liberty for any given reason must follow the recommendations, rules and policies set out in the code practice that forms part of the Mental Capacity Act (2005).

The Deprivation of liberty is a challenging area of healthcare

It should always be noted that DoLS is a protection mechanism not an enforcement tool that is generally only used in environments that deal with those people with extreme learning disabilities, those with dementia and those with serious neurological or brain disorders.  Where possible, but it is not an ideal world, the deprivation of the liberties of someone should be avoided if it can.

It is recommended that DoLS only be used where it is in the best interests of the person or patient in the care of an organisation or caregiver. It is about keeping them safe and nothing else. Deprivation of Liberties Safeguards cannot be a blanket ruling for a person or group of people and must be considered for a specific treatment or plan of action only.  Where possible DoLS should be used for a limited period of time and ideally the time period should be as short as possible.

DoLS is a complex area of caregiving experienced in more specialised areas of healthcare. It is essential that a thorough understanding of what DoLS is and how the processes within it are and can or cannot be implemented is gained. Training on this area of expertise is highly recommended and for any organisation offering care where DoLS may need to be part of procedures and policies having well-trained staff with up to date knowledge is vital.

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