Q&A - Neighbour cannot leave nursing home as she is subject to a DoLS. What does this mean?

Q: Our elderly neighbour is in a nursing home. Every time I visit her she says she wants to leave. The front door of the home is locked so she cannot get out but she keeps asking me to help her. She says she has received some paperwork saying she is subject to a DoLS. What does this mean?

A: DoLS stands for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. These are legally imposed safeguards that aim to ensure people in care homes, hospitals and supported living are looked after in a way that does not inappropriately restrict their freedom. DoLS apply to vulnerable people aged 18 or over who have a mental health condition, including dementia, and who lack the mental capacity to make decisions about their care or treatment.

The key elements of the safeguards are to provide the person with a representative, to give the person or their representative the right to challenge a Deprivation of Liberty through the Court of Protection and to provide a mechanism for Deprivation of Liberty to be regularly reviewed and monitored.

Following a Supreme Court Judgment handed down in March last year, the elements of Deprivation of Liberty include an obligation to live in a particular place, to be subject to constant monitoring and control, to only be allowed out with close supervision and to be unable to move away without permission.

If your neighbour has been made subject to a DoLS she will have been given copes of the paperwork setting out why this was necessary. Although it is not always explained to people in her position she has the right, at no cost to her and with the benefit of free legal representation, to challenge DoLS in court. DoLS are however highly complex so your neighbour should seek advice from a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.