On 16th December 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (in a letter from Helen Tabiner – Deputy Director, Service Quality) formally confirmed what most people had suspected for several months now. The Liberty Protection Safeguards will not be implemented from April 2022 as planned. They confirmed that a public consultation on the draft Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice and Regulations will be launched soon (it was due to be launched in Spring 2021) and preparations for its launch are in their final stages. The department anticipate the consultation, COVID permitting, being launched in “early 2022” and it will continue for 12 weeks.
“It is paramount that the implementation of the LPS is successful so that the new system provides the safeguards that are needed. We recognise that without adequate time to prepare, implementation will not be a success. Given the impact of the pandemic on the sectors and professionals who will be called upon to implement these important reforms, along with the unforeseen delay to launching consultation, we recognise that our aim to implement the LPS by April 2022 cannot be met, and I am writing to confirm this formally.”
The consultation period will say more about the design and implementation of the LPS. However, it will not set a new target date for implementation and the Government will consider dates and funding plans once they have received responses from stakeholders following the consultation period. There will be no further details about implementation dates or funding plans until after the consultation period.
In what must be a bittersweet update for Local Authorities, NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups and other stakeholders from the Department of Health and Social Care, this letter at least confirms what most had suspected. The target implementation date of April 2022 has long been unrealistic. However, it was still the official target date so many organisations have been working towards that date and recruiting new staff and adopting new systems of working with that date in mind. It is interesting that a new implementation date has not been provided by the Department and will not be provided until after the consultation period. Realistically, given the Department are expecting detailed and wide ranging responses from stakeholders, and will not be starting the 12 week consultation until “early 2022” (is this February? March?), I wonder if April or October 2023 is a more realistic date to start implementing the Liberty Protection Safeguards. This letter certainly describes a more cautious approach by the Department of Health and Social Care than working towards an actual implementation date. Are they expecting a particularly long and complex consultation period and response time? Are they uncertain about the whole process? We will not now know until (probably) the second half of 2022 which again places those who will eventually be responsible for the implementation of the LPS at a local level into unknown territory once again.