Principles for Implementin Duty of Care in Health and Social Care

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1. 1 Explain what it means to have a duty of care in own work role: A duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on any individual working within the care sector that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care whilst performing any acts that could foreseeable harm others.

It is my responsibility that:

  • Whilst caring for an individual I promote their independency and assist them to understand and exercise their rights.
  • That I use established processes and procedures to challenge and report dangerous, abusive, discriminatory or exploitative behaviour and practice.
  • Following practice and procedures designed to keep myself and other people safe from violent and abusive behaviour at work.
  • Bring to the attention of my Manager or appropriate authority any difficulties that might get in the way of the delivery of safe care.
  • Informing my Manager of appropriate authority where colleagues may be using unsafe practices of adversely affecting standards of care.
  • Comply with Health & Safety Polices.
  • Helping clients and any colleagues to make complaints, taking complaints seriously and responding to them or passing them onto the appropriate person.
  • Recognising and using responsibly the power that comes from my work with clients and others colleagues.
  • People have a right to expect that when a professional is providing support, they will be kept safe and are not neglected or exposed to any unnecessary risks.

1. 2 Explain how duty of care contributes to the safeguarding or protection of individuals: Having a duty of care should guarantee the safeguarding of vulnerable adults in my care. Knowing that I have a duty of care towards everyone I work with provides a clear guide to how I should behave, and how I must consider those I work with.

By following the codes of practice and thinking about my duty of care means that my practice will be safer because I will stop to think to ensure I am working in the best interest of the clients I am supporting and keeping them safe from harm. Risk Assessments – carrying out and reviewing risk assessments for all the activities we do within our caring role ensure risks are minimised and therefore reducing risk of injury or harm to clients, myself and others. Recognising potential hazards and eliminating them.

By following Policies and Procedures we have a clear set of rules and boundaries that ensure adults and those we work with know how to conduct themselves If we conform to legislation and laws such as health and safety and safeguarding we are working within the law which is there to protect vulnerable adults and others who work with us. Understanding signs of neglect or abuse and observing clients means I can notice any signs or symptoms early avoiding putting people at risk, ensuring clients are progressing as is expected, reporting any concerns to my Manager.

2. Know how to address conflicts or dilemmas that may arise between an individual’s rights and the duty of care:

2. 1 Describe potential conflicts or dilemmas that may arise between the duty of care and an individual’s rights: Whilst I have a duty of care to the people I support they also have the right to make their own choices and reach a decision about actions they want to take. Sometimes this can result in a conflict or dilemma and how it is resolved depends on the legal position of the person I am supporting.

Most of our clients are in a position to make their own decisions about what they do in their lives, in order to exercise my duty of care I must ensure that any decisions and choices people make are based on understanding the consequences and potential risks of what they want to do. My role is not to prevent clients from doing what they want, but I need to make sure that they know the possible results.

This can result in some very finely balanced decisions especially where there are concerns about someone’s capacity to understand the possible risks and consequences of their actions, just because a person has dementia, learning disabilities or a long term mental problem it is easy to believe they lack the capacity to make decisions about important issues affecting their own lives. We would need to think about the Mental Capacity Act 1005 which underpins five key principles:

  • A presumption of capacity – every adult has the right to make their own decisions and must be assumed to have the capacity to do so unless it is proved otherwise.
  • The right for people to be supported to make their own decisions – people must be given all appropriate help before anyone concludes that a person cannot make their own decisions.
  • That people must retain the right to make what might be seen as eccentric or unwise decisions
  • Best interests – anything done for or on behalf of people without capacity must be in their best interests.
  • Least restrictive Intervention – anything done for or on behalf of people without capacity should be the least restrictive of their basic rights and freedoms. This act sets out clearly how to establish if someone is incapable of making a decision.

The underlying principle is that I can give people information so that they understand the potential risks and consequences of their actions but, apart from exceptional circumstances I cannot stop people from doing something they have decided to do. There are some circumstances where I can and should take action, such as:

  • Is the person likely to act criminally or illegal.
  • Will it deliberately harm them.
  • Does it represent a serious risk to others. In these circumstances I must seek advice from my Manager immediately.

2. 2 Describe how to manage risks associated with conflicts or dilemmas between an individual’s rights and the duty of care: I must always have the individual’s best interests in mind. An important part of promoting rights, choice and control is that people are encouraged to take the risks that come with day-to-day living but have an understanding of the potential consequences and have taken all possible steps to reduce the possibility of harm to themselves or others. The way in which I can exercise my duty of care in a risky situation is not to take steps to stop someone doing what they want but to access the risks carefully and to look at the protecting factors.

I may have to think about what other protecting factors I can put in place so that the risk is managed effectively such as: A client may develop acute symptoms if he does not take his medication – I could reduce the risk by increasing visits to ensure the medication is taken correctly.

2. 3 Explain where to get additional support and advice about conflicts and dilemmas: The first port of call if I am unsure about what to do and I am exercising my duty of care is to consult my Manager; they should be able to advise me about the best approaches to take. I could also contact the clients GP or the District Nurse for their advise. Trade Unions might be an option if I feel I am not getting the answers I need to help resolve the situation.

3. Know how to respond to complaints:

3. 1 Describe how to respond to complaints: Complaints to the organisation should be monitored and considered as part of every review of service provision, if everyone simply put up with poor service and no one complained they would never be aware of where the service needs improvement. Should a client wish to make a complaint I would firstly listen to what they have to say, I would explain to the client that I am taking their complaint seriously and that I would need to consult my Manager.

It could result in the client following the complaint up in writing or even my Manager visiting them to discuss. Mu Manager would refer to the complaints procedure and report to her Manager. Hopefully through discussions with all parties the complaint can be dealt with effectively, it may however result in a disciplinary being taken against any member of staff who the client is complaining about.

3. 2 Explain the main points of agreed procedures for handling complaints: The complaints procedure needs to be readily available for people to use; part of my role may be to support people in making a complaint or in handling complaints made to me.

If a complaint is made to me I should:

  • Make sure the person understands how to use the complaints procedure.
  • Explain to them how it works and when they can expect to receive a response.
  • Offer support in following the complaints procedure if necessary.
  • Advise my Manager that the complaint is being made.

I must not:

  • Attempt to resolve the complaint myself.
  • Discuss the complaint with the person it is about
  • Discourage people from making complaints
  • Promise that I will sort it out.
  • Discuss the complaint with colleagues or anyone other than my Manager.


  • Hart, Frederick, and Meg Bond. Action research for health and social care: a guide to practice. McGraw-Hill Education (UK), 1995.
  • Munn-Giddings, Carol, and Richard Winter. A handbook for action research in health and social care. Routledge, 2013.
  • Aveyard, Helen. Doing a literature review in health and social care: A practical guide. McGraw-Hill Education (UK), 2014.

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