Ann’s debate on Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards assessments


Families are suffering ‘untold distress’ because dementia sufferers who die in care homes are classed as being in ‘state detention,’ according to Ann Coffey MP.

Some families are having to wait months to bury their loved ones because they are being caught up by regulations that require state inquests into the deaths of Alzheimer’s sufferers, even when they die of natural causes.

The delays are linked to a massive expansion in the use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), which are intended to make sure people in care homes and hospitals are cared for in a way that does not inappropriately restrict their freedom.

During an adjournment debate in the Commons today (Wednesday June 17), Ms Coffey, the MP for Stockport, will highlight the tenfold increase in applications for DoLS, which she says has created an ‘expensive, bureaucratic nightmare’.

Ms Coffey has been inundated with concerns from grieving relatives, local GPs and council officers who are unhappy with the system, which she says is “not fit for purpose”.

Councils up and down the country are struggling with an avalanche of applications for DoLS from care homes after a Supreme Court ruling last year which effectively lowered the threshold for what constitutes deprivation of liberty in care.

The problem was made worse by the “profound and unintended consequences” of guidance issued by the Chief Coroner to local Coroners consequent to the Supreme Court judgement.

He said that all persons who die subject to a DoLS order must be the subject of a coroner investigation, whether the death was from natural causes or not. For the purposes of the 2009 Coroner’s & Justice Act they are deemed to be “in state detention.”

When a person subject to a DoLS dies in care police have to be called immediately and stay with the body until it is despatched into the hands of a coroner for an inquest to take place.

It is the same procedure as for prisoners or people in police custody and is the source of terrible anxiety for relatives of care home residents and is also tying up hours of police and ambulance service time.

It is leading to an increased workload right across the public sector and Sir Peter Fahy, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, has written to Adult social care teams looking for statistics amid concerns about how these changes will impact on police time and resources.

Ms Coffey will today call in the Commons for:

 An urgent review of the cumbersome DoLS system

 The Chief Coroner to scrap his current guidance which says that people who die on a DoLS are in ‘state detention’ and should automatically have an inquest

 Chief Coroner’s guidance to be revised to make clear an inquest is not necessary in every case and that local Coroner’s will be given the discretion to make individual decisions about inquests.

 Scrap the current rule that DoLS have to be re-assessed every 12 months at massive cost

Stockport Council alone has earmarked £1.2 m annually from reserves and has taken on six new social workers and a part time solicitor to deal with the deluge of DoLs applications.

In Stockport there are about 2,500 nursing home/residential care beds and all the care home providers are requesting DoLS assessments for their residents because they don’t want to be caught out by the law.

From April 1, 2014 to end of January 2015, the Stockport social care team received 612 applications and currently has about 230 cases with have not yet been processed.

The figures for DoLS applications are rising every month and the latest national figures for the three months January to March this year reveal that the total number of DoLS applications nationally has risen to 36,000, – two thirds of which have not even been processed.

Ms Coffey said: “This system is an expensive, bureaucratic nightmare that will inevitably divert resources from front line care. It must be urgently reviewed.

 “My main concern is that when loved ones die in care, relatives should not have their grief exacerbated by this. This system is not remotely sensitive. It is a sledgehammer approach.

 “Without a shadow of a doubt it is that phrase ‘state detention’ that is causing the most terrible grief to relatives.

 “When someone asks you: “How did your mother die? Who wants to reply: “In state detention”.

Examples of local cases raised with Ms Coffey include:

a lady who died of natural causes in a care home and was cremated, only for it to be discovered weeks afterwards that she was subject to a DoLS Order. In this case the Coroner had to get permission to carry out an inquest in the absence of a body. The family were very upset because they had to revisit the death all over again.


  • A lady, whose father lives in a care home wrote to Ms Coffey after she was called to a meeting about the Coroner’s guidance. She told Ms Coffey: “I am absolutely appalled at the ruling that residents in a care home with dementia and their families, need to be put through so much after death.  Not only will it be a drain on public services that are already stretched to the limit but it will also prolong the agony of the grieving families at a really stressful and upsetting time“


An 89 year old lady who died from entirely natural causes. When the family were told there had to be an inquest they were very distressed and felt that she was being ’accused’ of having done something wrong so that her ‘liberty’ was restrained.


  • The wife of an 86 year old man who has Alzheimer’s and who lives in a local care home said she was very upset that her husband was considered to be in state detention’. The lady said: “He is not a prisoner just because he has a lockable door. He is not in prison – he has done nothing wrong.”
  • Another elderly gentleman died of a type of cancer of the lungs, which almost invariably is linked to exposure to asbestos at some time in the past. He became very agitated in the latter stages of his illness and so was made subject to a DoLS. There now has to be an inquest because it appears he died from an industrial disease, and because it is an unnatural cause for someone subject to a DoLS, his inquest has to be held with a jury. All taking much time and money.




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