Thousands of elderly and vulnerable patients are being illegally restrained by staff in hospitals and care homes, according to the care watchdog.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) warns that carers and nursing staff are ignoring laws which state they must apply for approval before depriving patients of their liberty.
But there is a “worrying” backlog of nearly 20,000 cases awaiting approval for a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard, and staff may well be restraining patients anyway as they wait for paperwork, the watchdog said.
Care home staff go to councils and hospital staff to the NHS with the applications, nearly half of which are turned down.
There were nearly 53,000 applications in the first six months of 2014/15, a seven-fold increase compared to submissions for the entire year of 2013/14. The huge rise followed two court rulings which stated individuals could also be deprived of their liberty in foster care and sheltered housing, as well as hospitals and care homes.