6 Fundamental Safeguarding Principles for Health and Social Care
hen it comes to safeguarding vulnerable adults in the UK, making sure to protect them from harm and keep them secure are the main goals. However, they need to have freedom and rights.
In other words, caregivers need to be mindful that their role is to protect, but not overprotect to the extent of not allowing vulnerable adults to enjoy their lives.
In this article, we’ll look at the six guiding principles that were set out in the 2014 Care Act, as they give a clear framework to provide good adult safeguarding in health and social care settings.
What is meant by a “vulnerable adult”?
Before we look at the key safeguarding principles, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what we mean by a vulnerable adult.
A basic definition of a vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 years or older who has medical, physical, or emotional conditions that mean they cannot fully take care of themselves or makes them vulnerable to harm or exploitation.
Some examples of groups that may be classed as vulnerable adults (depending on the severity of their condition) include:
- Physically disabled people
- Mentally disabled people
- People with severe mental illness
- People with a chronic disease or illness
- Terminally ill adults
- Elderly or infirm adults.
The 6 vulnerable adult safeguarding principles
The 2014 Care Act was introduced to update the legislation covering social care and healthcare in England and Wales. The act set out six safeguarding principles that organisations involved in the provision of health and social care to vulnerable adults need to follow.
Vulnerable adults have a right to feel empowered by making their own decisions wherever practically possible. For decisions related to health and wellbeing, the patient should be given information about the different options and potential outcomes, then be allowed to reach their own decision based on the facts.
In order to fulfill this principle, caregivers should be careful not to force their own opinion on patients. The patient should be given the opportunity to make their own decision and give consent to any medical procedures or intervention, unless they are unable to do so. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 gives guidance on whether patients can make their own informed decisions and give consent.
2. Harm prevention
The main message of this principle is that social and health care providers should be proactive in taking action before harm occurs. The alternative, fixing things after a dangerous event which causes harm, is unacceptable from a safeguarding point of view.
In order to effectively prevent harm, care providers need to carry out risk assessments, train staff, and make sure that measures are in place to reduce the potential for harm. Criminal background checks, known as DBS checks, are fundamental in this regard. A DBS check reveals any convictions that the individual has on their record, which means that the managers of the care provider can make informed recruitment decisions.
Finally, systems should be in place to make it easy for employees to report signs of abuse or neglect, without fear of reprisals or harassment.
3. Maintaining a sense of proportion
The proportionality principle states that care providers should respond to risk situations with actions that cause the least possible intrusion into the lives of their patients or clients.
This principle relies on accurate risk assessments and risk mitigation. For instance, allowing patients to walk around the outside area of a care facility may risk harm. Setting a rule to supervise patients outside, rather than banning them from going outside altogether, is a proportional response.
However, please note that some risks are so serious that they call for immediate and intrusive intervention. For example, if a patient’s life is at risk or there are signs of serious abuse.
Safeguarding guidance helps protect vulnerable adults and empower them to lead as much of a normal life as possible. Safeguarding policies and plans should include clear advice on what to do to protect and offer support to patients in certain situations.
The main protection focus should be preventing abuse and stopping it immediately if it does occur. DBS checks are a big help in this respect, as they can stop the wrong people who have a history of violence or abusive behaviour getting caregiving roles.
Collaboration refers to the way in which care providers work with local communities, charities, and other organisations. The aim is to provide efficient safeguarding to vulnerable adults. It also gives guidance to outside organisations on how to spot abuse or neglect and report it.
Raising awareness of adult safeguarding is an important part of the process. This can involve putting up posters, handing out leaflets, or organising educational events and talks. For instance, local councils may display posters depicting elderly abuse, with a phone number to report it.
Finally, is the requirement for health and care providers to be accountable for their safeguarding efforts and successful implementation. This principle states that everybody involved is responsible for safeguarding – other patients, caregivers, family, friends, health professionals, council workers, police, and anyone else who has contact with vulnerable adults.
Adult safeguarding in health and social care settings is vital in order to protect people from unnecessary harm or neglect. The Care Act of 2014 sets out the 6 fundamental principles listed above.
Health and care providers that work with vulnerable adults can use the principles to inform their safeguarding policies and procedures.
One of the most important things is to avoid the wrong people in care roles. DBS checks can help care providers to identify people that may pose a potential threat to vulnerable adults. DBS checks highlight past convictions and offences.
To find out more about safeguarding and DBS checks, get in touch with one of expert advisors today.