Carers in Sandwell forced to wait beyond the legal limit to make decisions for vulnerable patients
Carers in Sandwell were forced to wait beyond the legal time limit to be given the chance to make crucial decisions for people incapable of doing so, new figures show.
Across the country, thousands have experienced a prolonged wait for their deprivation of liberty applications, which allow a third party to act on behalf of those judged to be unable to make decisions for themselves.
Care homes, hospitals, and other organisations must seek permission from the local authority to use the policy, which is generally only deployed for people with dementia or severe mental health issues.
Charities said the delay that left thousands of people in limbo is a “public mental health scandal” and called on the Government to make sure the system is properly funded.
NHS Digital figures show 1,755 applications in Sandwell took an average of 25 days to be completed, which was longer than the legal time limit of 21 days. Of those, 390 were processed within the 21-day time frame.
Those who faced the delays accounted for 78% of all people whose applications were received or completed in the year ending March 2023.
Last year patients and carers had to wait for an average of 65 days.
One vulnerable person had to wait one year and 103 days for their application to be processed — the slowest completion in the area for the period 2022-23.
Across England, the average wait time for all completed applications was 156 days, an increase of three days on the previous year.
Rupen Gahir Kalsi, senior policy manager at VoiceAbility, a charity which advocates for patients, said: "These figures are shocking, but not surprising. This is wholly predictable and is why DoLS (deprivation of liberty safeguards) was due to be replaced by Liberty Protection Safeguards earlier this year – legislation which has now been shelved.
"LPS is not the perfect solution, but implementing this would make a huge difference to people, the majority of whom are older people, stuck living in places they don’t want to be, separated from friends and family. They need urgent action from government now."
Rheian Davies, head of legal at mental health charity Mind, said: “Even under existing legislation these waiting lists could come down if ringfenced money was given to local authorities to employ more specialist social workers, known as Best Interest Assessors, who decide if the placement where the patient is detained is in their best interests.
“We call on the UK Government to take stock of these appalling figures and put in the resources needed to address what can only be called, a public mental health scandal.”
In Sandwell, applications classified as 'standard' took an average of 27 days to be granted, while 'urgent' ones were completed in around 22 days.
Over half (56%) of the 289,150 applications completed in England were not granted due to a change in the person’s circumstances or not meeting the assessment criteria.
In Sandwell, there were 540 DoLS not granted — 31% of all applications.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “To assist local authorities, the Government is providing up to £7.5 billion of additional funding over two years to support adult social care and discharge.
“Local authorities will have the flexibility to use this funding to meet local needs.”