Duty of care plays a critical role in health and social care, but here are some important things to remember:
- Each nation in the UK has its own regulatory body ensuring duty of care is upheld in health and social care
- Duty of care definition? To fully protect the people around you in a working environment from personal physical and/or emotional harm
- Duty of care in the health and social care is a legal duty to provide a reasonable standard of care to your patients and to act in ways that protect their safety
This article will take a closer look at the intricacies surrounding duty of care, and what it means for you or your loved ones when living in a residential care home.
What is Duty of Care?
Duty of care by definition is the prioritisation of individual wellbeing, welfare, compliance and good practice. It is the reasonable expectation or understanding that someone’s actions, or failure to act, might cause injury to another person.
The duty of care definition in health and social care is a legal duty to provide a reasonable standard of care to your patients and to act in ways that protect their safety.
Legal Framework and Regulatory Bodies
The Care Act 2014 sets out how adult social care in England should be provided, and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates all health and social care services, ensuring the quality and safety of care in hospitals, dentists, ambulances, care homes and care given in people’s own homes.
All NHS and social care providers have to be registered with CQC and must conform to a set of standards.
CQC inspectors assess the quality of a provider’s services through these five questions:
- Are they safe? Protection from abuse and avoidable harm
- Are they effective? Care, treatment and support lead to good outcomes
- Are they caring? Staff involve and treat people with compassion
- Are they responsive to people’s needs? Services are organised
- Are they well-led? The leadership, management and governance ensure high-quality care
The Care Inspectorate is responsible for inspecting care services and maintaining standards of care and is required by law to consider the Health and Social Care Standards when making decisions during inspections.
The health and social care standards in Scotland’s health and social care sector are underpinned by five principles:
- Dignity and respect
- Be included
- Responsive care
- Support and wellbeing
The Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act was put in place to improve the quality of health and social services and protect those who need them.
Care Inspectorate Wales regulates and inspects care services for all, from young children to older adults. Professional assessments and judgements about social care, early years and social services are made using the following care planning regulations:
- Enforcement: Action is taken to ensure the requirements of the Care Standards Act and associated regulations are met
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is the independent body responsible for monitoring and inspecting the availability and quality of health and social care services in Northern Ireland, and encourages improvements in the quality of those services.
Many RQIA inspections are unannounced and can occur at any time or day. Inspectors will look for evidence that the care being provided is:
Duty of Care in Practice
What is duty of care in health and social care? In practice, it is the legal responsibility to keep patients safe and provide care to a reasonable standard.
All staff working within health and social care should ensure the delivery of safe and appropriate care in accordance with regulatory and professional standards.
Here are some examples of duty of care:
- Providing domiciliary care to someone with Parkinson’s disease. If a carer notices the patient hasn’t been eating much food recently, and when asked, they say they are struggling to hold utensils, as part of their duty of care, the carer must ensure the patient can eat and drink, adapting cutlery and monitoring the situation to see if it improves.
- A healthcare support worker carrying out personal care for an individual. They should ask consent before touching them, explain what they are going to do and ensure their body is discreetly covered at all times. This helps to maintain a patient’s dignity and uphold their duty of care.
Ensuring Compliance with Duty of Care
Health and social care staff must comply with regulations that adhere to duty of care standards to keep service users and staff safe from harm, taking precautionary steps to avoid risk. Unlike some aspects of health and social care regulation in the UK, it is a legal requirement to properly carry out risk assessments.
Care providers must carry out risk assessments for each person they provide care for, whether in a care home or a person’s own home by staff that are competent to do so. They should be completed before the care package commences, and risk assessments in health and social care should be updated any time a new risk is identified.
If you feel as though someone who has a duty of care is not acting accordingly, you are able to complain by speaking directly to the service itself to see if the issue can be resolved.
The Importance of Inspections and Legislation
There are a number of ways regulatory bodies enforce and ensure compliance to duty of care.
For example, the CQC has a wide range of enforcement powers they can use if care services do not meet fundamental standards. They can prosecute, impose penalties and otherwise secure improvements under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities Regulations) 2014.
Similarly, the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 aims to improve care standards. If a care service or individual fails to comply with the Act and associated regulations means that they can be de-registered by the regulatory body and no longer provide care services.
Who Does Duty of Care Apply To?
A duty of care is owed by all healthcare professionals, including full and part-time workers, permanent or temporary roles, agency workers, those who run their own businesses, support workers, students and volunteers.
They have moral and legal obligations to fully protect anyone associated with the establishment from personal physical and/or emotional harm, whether on the premises or through activities related to the establishment.
The four responsibilities of duty of care in health and social care are:
- Wellbeing (promoting it where possible)
- Welfare (protecting people from harm, abuse and injury)
- Compliance (following duty of care rules and regulations)
- Good practice (undertaking an effective and proven approach to care)
Duty of care plays a crucial role in safeguarding by establishing a legal and ethical framework to protect individuals receiving care. It requires care providers’ prioritise the welfare and wellbeing of people in their care and to take appropriate actions to prevent harm.
Frequently Asked Questions