Campaigners have expressed their concerns after deprivation of liberty applications rose to record numbers.
NHS Digital data has revealed that care homes in England asked local councils to approve 195,840 applications to deprive a resident of their liberty under the Mental Capacity Act 2015, Deprivation of Liberty Standards (DoLS).
DoLS requests are usually made to avoid someone harming themselves. Councils have to assess if applications have fulfilled six criteria and respond within 21 days, or within seven days if it is an urgent case.
The system is meant to ensure independent assessment of decisions to deny the liberty of people deemed to lack the mental capacity to consent to the care they receive.
Of the 195,840 applications, 105,055 were processed with 76,530 (73%) of those approved and the rest rejected as inappropriate.
Applications are usually considered only after someone has been denied their freedom, which means that last year about 28,500 people were restrained, locked in or given medication before the move was deemed inappropriate
Martina Kane, senior policy officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It is disgraceful that nearly 30,000 people were wrongfully deprived of their liberty, and in over a quarter of cases practitioners are still locking people in, sedating them, restraining them or otherwise treating them as second class citizens.
“Depriving someone of their liberty should always be a last resort and only ever done in someone’s best interests. It is crucial that the quality of care provided to people with dementia is improved to ensure that.”
NHS Digital, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, councillor Izzi Seccombe, said: “These alarming figures are further evidence of the significant added pressure facing local government as a result of increased DoLS assessments, which is estimated to be costing councils more than £170 million a year.
“Councils are doing everything they can to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people and will continue to prioritise those most in need.
“But the government needs to fulfil its promise to overhaul the system as a matter of urgency and provide adequate funding so that councils have the time and money to do this properly.
“Failure to do this will have a damaging impact on crucial council services on which people rely and will lead to more vulnerable people left facing long waiting times for assessments.”