The vast majority of people with mental health problems are never admitted to hospital. They may visit their GP and perhaps receive treatment from specialist mental health services, in which case they might see a psychiatrist as an outpatient. Sometimes, but less often, people may be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment on a voluntary basis, where they agree to come in for treatment. Voluntary inpatients have exactly the same rights as anyone going into hospital for any treatment and they can leave whenever they want to.
Alternatively if someone lacks the capacity to consent to being admitted to hospital, but does not object to it, that person might be admitted 'informally' and decisions about admission and treatment made in their best interests under the Mental Capacity Act.
The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) were introduced into the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) via the Mental Health Act 2007. The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards provide legal protection for those vulnerable people who are, or may become, deprived of their liberty within the meaning of Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights in a hospital or care home, whether placed under public or private arrangements.
The DoLS provide for a care plan which is so restrictive that it amounts to a deprivation of liberty to be made lawful through ‘standard’ or ‘urgent’ authorisation processes. These processes are designed to prevent arbitrary decisions to deprive a person of their liberty.
Our policies on MHA and MCA implementation can be found here.