Q&A - Elderly friend is locked in at nursing home because of a DoLS. What is this?

Q:    When I visited an elderly friend in the nursing home where she has been since pre covid she was very distressed and said she wants to leave but is kept locked in. She claims staff say she cannot leave because of a ‘DOLS’, but she does not understand what that is. The staff would not talk to me about it due to data protection. Her son has died since she went into the home. How can I help her?

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

The main purpose of DoLS is to provide the person with a representative to ensure their best interests are being upheld and to provide a mechanism for Deprivation of Liberty to be legally authorised, regularly reviewed and monitored. Key elements often include an obligation to live in a particular place, to be subject to constant monitoring and control, to only be allowed out with certain levels of supervision and to be unable to move away without permission.

If your neighbour has been made subject to a DoLS she should have been appointed a representative/advocate and given copies of the paperwork setting out why the DoLS are 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 the DoLS in court. DoLS are however complex, so your neighbour should seek advice from a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.

Article June 2021

This question has been answered by Shane Maddocks, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry, please use the ‘Contact us’ form on the website or call Wrexham 01978 291456 or Oswestry 01691 659194. As a firm, you will appreciate that we are still extremely busy, and due to current circumstances work may be interrupted – however cases are still ongoing and will be prioritised by urgency and need. Stay safe and thank you for your support.

Andy Howarth

Andy Howarth


Part of the Mental Health team based in the Oswestry office.