New statistics released by the Department of Health (DH) reveal that, on the basis of a quarterly analysis from 1 July 2010 to 30 September 2010, the number of authorisations given in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLs) has increased by 1,681 compared to the same quarter in 2009.

There were 2,333 DOLs authorisations granted within the quarter, with 75.5 per cent of these being received by local authorities and 24.5 per cent received by PCTs.  

Despite this increase in usage, the number of authorisations is still well below the original estimate of 21,000 authorisations a year made by the DH in 2005.  

Commentators query whether this increase in authorisations is due to an increased knowledge and understanding of the law surrounding DOLs or a reflection of the rising number of people suffering from dementia, which is the main group of people to which the safeguards apply.  

The statistics also show that by far the most common reason for an authorisation not being granted was that the best interests requirement was not met.

There is a degree of subjectivity when considering whether a person is being deprived of their liberty and this makes the safeguards very difficult to apply consistently. It is hoped that, as case law develops, this will further clarify what amounts to a deprivation of liberty.