Parliamentary Committee gives Department of Health one year to deliver action plan for DoLS

The Health Select Committee has published a report of its post-legislative scrutiny of the Mental Health Act 2007 (MHA).  I’ve written about the MHA bits for the UK Human Rights Blog, so I won’t repeat them here, but what the Committee had to say about the deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS) was striking.  I grumbled last year about the Department of Health’s rather over-optimistic appraisal of the success of the DoLS.  It seems that the Health Select Committee did not share their views.

The Commitee noted the ‘extreme’ variation in application of the DoLS, and heard evidence that providers did not ‘know when they were exceeding the powers it gave them and would therefore need to apply for a DOLS authorisation, or how the MCA could be used appropriately, sometimes negating a need for DOLS’.  Their implementation was marked by confusion and resistance, and the Committee felt there was an urgent need for reform.  Clinicians regretted the loss of the DoLS guidance group which the Department of Health used to run, and called for more authoritative guidance.

The Committee found the evidence it received on the application of the DoLS ‘profoundly depressing and complacent’, commenting:

People who suffer from lack of mental capacity are among the most vulnerable members of society and they are entitled to expect that their rights are properly and effectively protected. The fact is that despite fine words in legislation they are currently widely exposed to abuse because the controls which are supposed to protect them are woefully inadequate.

The Committee recommended that the Department of Health conduct ‘an urgent review of the implementation of DoLS’, to be presented to Parliament within 12 months, ‘together with an action plan to deliver early improvement.’  It will be very interesting to see what they produce.

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