Unfinished DoLS applications fall for second consecutive year, annual statistics show

The total number of uncompleted Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) applications has fallen for the second year running, the latest statistics show.

Annual data released by NHS Digital covering the year to 31 March 2021 revealed that the total number of unfinished applications in England fell by 8% to 119,740 – down around 10,000 on the previous year-end number.

The figure had previously reached 131,350 as of 31 March 2019 before falling last year – for the first time since records began in 2015-16.

The number of completed applications rose to their highest-ever annual total – 246,025 – continuing a trend of increasing completion rates at an average rate of 19% more than the year before.

Overall applications down slightly

In all, the number of DoLS applications reached 256,610 for the 2020-21 financial year, a drop of 3% on the previous year, after growing at an average annual rate of 14% between 2014-15 and 2019-20.

NHS Digital reported all its headline totals as ‘estimated’ because one local authority area was unable to submit data.

The slight decline in total application numbers comes as preparations are underway for the transition to Liberty Protection Safeguards, which are due to replace DoLS in April 2022, after being delayed due to Covid-19.

During the pandemic, DoLS assessments have been subject to changing guidance, with initial advice being to conduct then remotely – a position that was reversed last September, before being changed again as local authorities became subject to tiered restrictions.

Covid guidance around DoLS and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 was withdrawn entirely earlier this month.

Standstill on completions within timescale

During 2020-21, the average length of time for a DoLS application to be completed was 148 days, with the proportion of standard applications completed in the statutory 21-day timeframe sitting at just 24%, the same as the previous year.

Completed applications were not granted in 57% of cases, the main reason given in 60% of these cases being a change of circumstances.

Across all age groups there were 468 DoLS applications made per 100,000 people.

For those aged 75-85 the rate was 1,769 per 100,000 people while for those aged 85+ the rate was 6,176 per 100,000. These figures exclude cases where multiple applications were made regarding the same individual.

More females than males were subject to at least one DoLS application overall; below the age of 75 the reverse was true.