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Duty of Care

Duty of care is a fundamental principle that underpins the provision of health and social care services. It is a legal obligation that ensures anyone accessing care services is adequately taken care of and their wellbeing is prioritised. This includes patients in hospitals and residents in care homes, and extends to all aspects of care, including physical, emotional, and psychological health.

What Is Duty Of Care?

Duty of care is a moral, ethical and legal obligation for professionals to act in the best interests of those they care for, ensuring their safety and protecting them from harm. It guides the practice of care providers, and shapes the quality of care and support provided to vulnerable individuals.

A duty of care pertains to anyone who is in a position where they are responsible for the care of others. For example, teachers have a duty of care towards the children in their school. A duty of care in healthcare or social care can mean a doctor looking after a patient, or a care home worker managing the needs of those living in a care home.

Duty of care guidance incorporates professional standards for caregivers to follow so that they adhere to relevant legislation and regulations, and ensure that the care provided is safe, effective, and appropriate for the individual’s needs.

Is Duty Of Care A Legal Requirement?

Duty of care is a legal requirement, and so must be followed in order for care services and care providers to be compliant with the law. Key pieces of legislation include:

The Health and Social Care Act 2012

The Care Act 2014

Mental Capacity Act 2005

These laws outline the responsibilities of care providers so that the safety and wellbeing of individuals is effectively prioritised, that adequate staff training is provided, and proper standards of care are maintained.

Why Is Duty Of Care Important?

As well as being a legal requirement, duty of care is important because it means vulnerable people are protected and supported to the highest possible standards. With duty of care in health and social care settings, this means:

  • People receiving care are aware of their rights and advocated for where necessary
  • People are protected from harm, abuse and injury
  • Wellbeing is treated as a priority
  • The quality of care provided is safe and effective for the individual
  • Caregivers act professionally at all times to avoid ethical issues that might otherwise arise
  • Residents and patients feel confident and secure, and trust their caregivers

By following a duty of care, residents in a residential care home or nursing home are looked after and feel safe and supported. People receiving care can be particularly vulnerable, which is why duty of care in health and social care environments is so important.

Who Is Responsible For Duty Of Care?

For duty of care in healthcare and social care, those responsible include:

Managers

Care home managers must make sure that the care home environment is managed and maintained in accordance with duty of care requirements, and that industry regulations are adhered to at all times, whether through staff training, risk assessments, or reporting of incidents.

Care staff

From social workers and doctors to support staff and on-site maintenance, anyone involved in administering care in a care home is responsible for the duty of care. They should provide safe and effective care to residents and report any concerns or worrying incidents to management. Work stations and equipment should be cleaned and looked after for hygiene and safety reasons.

Family

Family members with loved ones in care homes, or even those providing home care, will need to play a role in duty of care to make sure their relative is being looked after, and that any concerns are appropriately raised.

Regulatory bodies

The Care Quality Commision (CQC) is responsible for inspecting care homes and enforcing standards of care. Having a regulatory body to oversee all care provisions means care services are held accountable and must meet their obligations.

Advocates

An advocate in health and social care is not strictly responsible for duty of care in care homes, but is an independent person who can act on behalf of your loved one. They help you understand your rights and options, so you can all make the best choices when accessing various health services.

The Duty Of Care Responsibilities

There are four duty of care responsibilities. From these responsibilities, care homes can implement practical measures to comply with them. The duty of care responsibilities are:

  • Wellbeing – managing and promoting the safety and wellbeing of residents and acting in their best interests
  • Welfare – making sure people are protected from any abuse or harm
  • Compliance – following the guidance to ensure compliance with duty of care laws
  • Good Practice – administering effective care that is proven to work, for example, following the 6 Cs of care

Duty Of Care In Health And Social Care Settings

Practical ways that care staff can follow the four duty of care responsibilities are:

Risk Assessment and Management

Health and social care professionals must conduct thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement strategies to manage and mitigate risks. This includes assessing the physical environment, evaluating the safety of care procedures, and ensuring that staff are trained to handle emergencies.

Safeguarding

Protecting vulnerable individuals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation is a critical aspect of duty of care. This involves recognising signs of abuse, reporting concerns, and taking action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of anyone who is at risk.

Record Keeping

Keeping accurate and detailed documentation is essential to ensure continuity of care, track the progress of individuals, and provide evidence of the care provided. This includes maintaining up-to-date health records, creating care plans, and recording incidents and interventions.

Communication

Collaborating with colleagues, other healthcare professionals, and the individuals receiving care is crucial for ensuring robust and well-rounded care. This includes sharing relevant information, discussing care plans, and working together to address complex needs.

Training

Health and social care professionals have a duty to maintain and improve their skills through ongoing professional development and training. This ensures they remain up-to-date with best practices, new treatments, and evolving standards of care.

What Happens When Duty Of Care Is Breached?

Duty of care forms part of the Code of Conduct for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England. This contains detailed information about how caregivers and health and social care staff should act. As well as complying with this code of conduct, workers should also know what to do if they have concerns or if they believe a duty of care is being breached.

Causes for concern might look like:

  • A lack of hygiene or an unsafe working environment
  • Individuals being put in dangerous situations or not being appropriately protected
  • Fire safety protocols not being followed; for example, fire escapes being blocked
  • Food being cooked or handled in a dangerous way
  • Violence, bullying or abuse of any kind

Complaints are legislated by The Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009. Individual establishments should have their own complaints procedure, which you should follow if you want to report an incident. Speak to the manager of the care setting to raise your concern and follow the agreed protocol. Care establishments responding to a complaint must do so compassionately and in good time, supporting the individual who made the complaint, and recording all the information factually and efficiently.

If it is found that a duty of care breach has occurred, then there could be disciplinary action within the workplace or even legal action and criminal charges, depending on the circumstances.

Duty Of Care At New Care Homes

Duty of care is a cornerstone of the provision at New Care Homes. We offer person-centred care that ensures every resident is treated as an individual, receiving the exact care they need to support their physical and emotional wellbeing. Professionals delivering care in our nursing and dementia care homes are fully qualified, and staff undergo ongoing training to keep them up to date on all aspects of care and current protocols.

Please contact us to find out more about how we work within the duty of care standards.