What is Duty of Care?

Nurse helping a patient
Pexels Licence - Antoni Shkraba

You may have heard the term ‘Duty of Care’ in health and social care; it underpins carers’ roles. But understanding it is difficult, and creating a standardised policy is even harder. This guide explains what duty of care is, what happens if you fail to meet it and how you can build a duty of care policy for your care institution. 

What Does a Duty of Care Mean?

A duty of care means taking responsibility for someone’s health, well-being and safety. It usually refers to people in the care or education sector, although it can apply to anyone.

Legal Duty of Care

The law imposes a duty of care on healthcare professionals where it can be reasonably presumed that failures in their duty could cause harm to patients. It applies to anyone, including doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants. 

These professionals’ actions must comply with the reasonable standards of care, otherwise known as the standards of an ‘ordinarily competent practitioner’.

Moving Beyond the Legal Obligation

Many organisations want to provide care that goes above their legal duty; it shows how much they care about those they need to protect. Remember that the legal duty is a baseline you should never cross. In most cases, you want to provide care above that standard. 

Consequences of Breaching Your Duty of Care 

Breaching your duty of care can have disastrous consequences, firstly causing harm to those in your care but also risking financial loss, reputation damage and potential criminal charges. 

If someone brings a legal case against you for breaching your duty of care, you can face expensive settlements outside of court or civil proceedings in front of a judge.

What Should You Do If Your Duty of Care Conflicts with Your Employer’s Instructions

If constraints caused by staffing levels, clients’ wishes, management processes or just your manager’s instructions conflict with your duty of care, you must fulfil your duty.

An excessive, unsafe workload or performing tasks you have not received appropriate training for could breach your duty of care. Always alert your employer of your concerns and record them following your local or business policy. That way, you are covered if things go wrong. 

How to Create a Duty of Care Policy

Care institutions should have a duty of care policy to regulate how they safeguard others and the care standards. Drafting one helps provide additional support and protects your company if something goes wrong. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you

  • Define Duty of Care

Beyond the legal definition, which is already vague, you can debate for hours about what Duty of Care means. You should set out your organisation’s understanding and standards. 

Seek legal assistance to ensure that you comply with the legal definition. 

  • Understand Your Employee’s Abilities and Needs

Understanding your team’s beliefs on their duty of care and the facilities, equipment and management required to achieve this standard is vital for your policy. It allows a collaborative decision that everyone in your organisation is satisfied with and gives you the necessary information to prepare essential induction and refresher training. 

  • Consider the Duty of Care You Already Provide

If, after consulting legal professionals, you have concluded that your service meets the legal duty of care, you should then ask yourself: am I happy with the care we provide? Remember, care is not just physical, but it covers emotional and financial well-being. If so, great. Find measurable indicators that you can base your policy on. 

If not, think about the measures you want to include to improve your care. Do you need the help of online training courses or more staff to balance workloads?

  • Who is Accountable?

Accountability is one of the six principles of safeguarding that should underpin your care, and knowing who is responsible for every service you provide is vital to maintaining consistently high standards. 

Establish crucial individuals, like fire safety managers and health and safety coordinators, and ensure everyone can identify them. Then, implement a system allowing those in your care, their families and your staff to bring up issues and concerns so you can appropriately address them. 

  • Record Your Policy and Coach Others

Record every detail of your policy and make it available to everyone involved in your organisation. Then train your staff to fulfil its obligations. You may need to demonstrate essential procedures like fire drills to those in your care. 

Learn How to Fulfil Your Duty of Care

For those who wish to work in the healthcare sector, understanding the job’s responsibilities is vital. Looking after vulnerable people means that you sometimes have to make crucial judgement calls and take steps to look after yourself and your colleagues.

Our duty of care course provides a better understanding of your duties and what you need to do.

The learning objectives of this course include:

  • Define and describe your duty of care
  • Discuss effective communication skills that can be utilised to solve problems and limit confrontations
  • Discuss legislation relevant to duty of care
  • Explain how comments and complaints can improve the quality of care
  • Define adverse events, errors, near misses, and incidents
  • Identify potential conflicts between an individual’s
    rights and duty of care
  • Describe factors that may contribute to or cause confrontation

After passing this one-hour course and quiz, you will be awarded a free CPD-accredited duty of care course certificate.

Take part in our duty of care course.

Look at our other courses and enrol today.