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Health and Social Care

What is Duty of Care in Health and Social Care


Lead Academy

14 Mins Read

We all have a duty of care to all those receiving care and support in our workplaces. In health and social care, your duty of care is included within the code of conduct for healthcare support workers and adult social care workers. Typically, it forms part of your job description. You can see how important it is to understand the duty. That’s why you have to have the knowledge, understanding and competencies to apply it in your role.

It’s a legal requirement.

Specifically, This blog will discuss everything that entails the duty of care in health and social care. But first, let’s talk a bit more about the general duty of care, so you’ll understand how it concerns people in different occupations.

What is Duty of Care?

In formal terms, the duty of care is the legal or moral responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of others. Moreover, this also involves taking necy andessar reasonable precautions to safeguard other people or their property from danger.

So, duty of care is about individual-

  • Wellbeing
  • Welfare
  • Compliance
  • Good practice

If you refer to Google Dictionary, you’ll see that the word ‘well-being’ means “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”. So this happiness refers to the positive ways a person thinks and feels. However, ‘Wellbeing’ is a much broader concept. The government of the United Kingdom’s “Care and support statutory guidance” relates to the following areas in particular:

  • Social and economic wellbeing
  • Physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing.
  • Personal dignity. It includes treating the individual with respect.
  • Domestic, family and personal.
  • Protection from abuse and neglect.
  • Participation in work, education, training or recreation.
  • Control by the individual over day-to-day life. It includes the control over care and support provided and the way it is provided.
  • Suitability of living accommodation.
  • The individual’s contribution to society.

It’s an obligation to ensure the physical and mental safety of everyone associated with your business. Furthermore, your responsibility also extends to people in your building, including contractors, clients, volunteers and members of the public.

All workplaces, whether that be a school or a voluntary organisation, have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that everyone associated with the establishment is fully protected from any personal, physical or emotional harm. Actually, it doesn’t matter whether they’re employees or non-employees. Your duty of care will include everyone on the premises. However, when people involve in establishment-related activities, your duty of care extends to them as well.

Typical areas of concern are-

  • Health safety
  • Personal safety
  • Fire safety
  • Food safety
  • Child and adult protection
  • More comprehensive safeguarding such as safer recruitment

You’ll also have to make sure your establishment is free of-

  • Inequality
  • Bullying
  • Violence
  • Harassment
  • Stress
  • Discrimination

Benefits of duty of care

Although it’s a legal requirement, focusing on the health and wellbeing of your workers has clear benefits for your business as well. For example, nobody wants to work in an environment where people are not safe. The better the working condition, the better the output from the employees. It has been proven in multiple studies and observations.

blog-starWhat is Duty of Care in Health and Social Care?

Duty of care is a legal requirement; hence you always need an expert’s help to understand it in the best possible manner. If you want to know what Duty of Care in Health and Social Care is, you can join the CPD-accredited Duty of Care online course offered by Lead Academy. Enrol today and avail incredible discounts.

A doctor measuring a belly of a pregnant woman

What is the Duty of Care in Health and Social Care?

As a health and social care worker, you have a duty of care to everyone you are caring for and supporting in your workplace.

Who does the duty of care apply to in health and social care?

It extends to those you support, yourself, your colleagues and anybody else who is present in your work setting.

For instance, if you work in a care home, your duty of care is just as crucial towards maintenance workers and cleaners as it is towards service users. Specifically, it’s a legal and professional obligation. One cannot simply choose to opt-out of it when others are in your care, using your services or are exposed to your activities.

So, this means always acting in their best interests, and it applies as soon as someone has care or treatment. Breaking this duty could result in legal action.

The negligence of duty can happen in either way-

  1. Not acting
  2. Failing to act

If either happens in a way that causes harm, you will have to take responsibility for it. In case you’re wondering, the legislation concerning the duty of care isn’t unreasonable by any sense of the word; your duty is to only act within your abilities.

Anything that lies outside of your competence doesn’t concern you. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the company or organisation that you work for. Accordingly, they’ll have to ensure that every employee is covered with adequate care and safety provisions.

Duty of care in health and social care or anywhere comes with the same responsibilities. They involve:

    • Promoting people’s well-being.
    • Making sure that people are safe from harm, abuse and injury.
    • Promoting people’s rights.

You can check out our other blog, “Safeguarding in Health and Social Care Assignment – Free Download.”

Code of conduct

As discussed before, the duty of care is part of the Code of Conduct for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England. Your job description will usually detail it, and you should read it before you agree to your employer’s contract. This Code of Conduct tells about the expected behaviours of a health and social care worker.

You have to have the knowledge and skills to act on your duty of care in your role. However, it is also important that you don’t go beyond it. You must be able to:

  • Identify any areas that are of concern.
  • Report these concerns in agreed ways.
  • Reporting concerns.

Furthermore, a part of your duty of care is to pass on any concerns regarding well-being to the concerned person so they can address the issue. Your employer will have agreed on ways of working to respond to potentially harmful situations, including reporting any concerns.

You can visit our other blog, “What is the Main Principle of the Care Act 2014,” to thoroughly understand the major goal of adult care.

Some examples of things that may cause concern

Poor working conditions. It could include things like:

  1. Working hours that are outside the agreed contract.
  2. Salaries not meeting legal requirements from the Government of UK.

Unsafe equipment. Examples of unsafe equipment could be:

  1. Heavy equipment not being appropriately anchored.
  2. Hoists not being inspected regularly.

Unsafe working practices. Examples of such are:

  1. Staff not following individuals’ care plans and the agreed-upon ways of working.
  2. Employers not installing proper safeguarding equipment or not following the techniques necessary to ensure personnel safety.

Untrained workers. This could include things like:

  1. Inexperienced staff carrying out tasks without appropriate training.
  2. Lack of competence in the staff and failing to address to fill the void that this incompetence creates.

Suspected abuse. For example:

  1. Individuals’ rights not being upheld
  2. Their dignity not being promoted.

If you are unsure of a situation and confused about what to do, you should ask your manager for advice.

Duty of Care in Health and Social Care: Roles and Responsibilities

According to the Code of Conduct of the health and social care workers, you must follow the following:

Respect and protect individuals’ rights.

You must always work so that it doesn’t breach the legal rights of individuals you are caring for and supporting. They have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity.

Promote individuals’ independence.

Promoting individuals’ independence means allowing them to make their own informed choices. They must be supported so that they can live as independently as possible.

Individuals must be allowed to have some control over their lives.

They must be able to-

  • Make informed decisions.
  • Take risks.
  • Involve in decisions regarding their care.

An individual’s duty is to only act within the limits of their role. However, they should always forward any doubts or any kind of concerns regarding any situation to the manager.

You must also adhere to a standard of reasonable care. Some of these include:

  • Keeping knowledge and skills up to date.
  • Keeping accurate and contemporaneous records of work.
  • Being in a position to know what must be done. It ensures that the service is provided safely.
  • Protecting confidential information. This rule can be breached if the wider duty of care or the public interest might justify disclosure.
  • Providing a service of no less a quality than that to be expected based on the skills, responsibilities, and range of activities within the particular trade or profession.
  • Not delegate work, or accept delegated work. If it is clear that the person to whom the work is delegated is competent to carry out the work concerned in a safe and appropriately skilled manner, then there is no issue.

A female nurse covering a disabled woman with blanket

Breach of duty of care

Some duties are like sacred rites. We should not neglect duties even though they are someone else’s duty. It is especially true when security, safety and care etc., are concerned. But we also have to keep in mind that we can only do so much. For example, we can try to do things that are outside our capacity. But we must do those things out of sheer moral standards.

So, it comes down to our beliefs.

An employee or employer may need help to do everything they believe they need to do. It does not mean they have breached their duty of care. A limit will always bind the resources available. This resource may refer to the number of hands available, the funds or even pieces of equipment.

Therefore the obligation of an employee and employer is to ensure that what is actually done is done safely and in an appropriate and timely manner. They should also make it clear what cannot be done.

Duty of care and agreed ways

We have to ensure that the employees can properly carry out their duty of care. To do this, employers should provide some guidance on how to:

  • Deal with abuse and violence or substance misuse.
  • Handle toxic substances.
  • Carry out risk assessments.

There are some routine ways to ensure that everyone is aware of how to fulfil their duty of care. These can include:

  • Fire drills.
  • Agreed ways of handling medication.
  • Cooking and food storage procedures.

Different workplaces will have different agreed ways of working. Check them thoroughly before you move to a new job in health and social care.

Also, document the agreed ways of working. If for some reason, they are not written down and are only communicated to you verbally, you must ensure that you still work on them.

A female doctor filling in form on clipboard


  • The Local Authority Social Services
  • NHS Complaints (England) Regulations 2009

These are the legislation for complaints in health and social care. The Department of Health also published the NHS Constitution in 2011. It tells you about guiding principles and patients’ rights. There should be a recorded process to follow. It may differ depending on the type of workplace. It should also have a time limit for the complaint to be made after the situation happens.

If someone wants to make a comment or complaint, you should deal with it according to the agreed methods of your organisation. Depending on where you work, that could include:

  • An arrangement to talk in private.
  • Confirming that the individual knows that you may need to pass on information if there is a risk to the safety of themselves or others.
  • Assuring them that you are taking them seriously by listening actively and in a calm manner.
  • Judgement of any sort or any emotional incident should be avoided.
  • Offering your support but not trying to answer the issue before the agreed way of working has taken place.
  • Explaining what will happen next and to who the complaint will be passed. Also, ensure that they know when some feedback will be provided.

Thank them, tell your manager what has been said, and make a record as soon as possible.

A legal consultation concept with money and people


For health and social care work, the followings are some sets of legislation that sets the standards on how to handle issues to improve services and positive outcomes.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The main piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in the UK is this one. It places a duty on employers and employees for the health, safety and welfare of persons in the workplace.

The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999

All workplaces should have a procedure in place for recording, reporting and evaluating all serious incidents. This piece of legislation outlines this specific concern and how to take measures to avoid them happening again.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)

This piece of legislation places duties on responsible individuals working on the premises to report specific workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specific dangerous occurrences or near misses to their local Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)

This legislation places importance on the fact that employers have to assess the risks of potentially harmful substances and take precautions to minimise these. They include, for example, cleaning materials and medication.

The Provisions and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

This legislation puts the responsibility for work equipment on relevant employed individuals and how they should ensure that the equipment is suitable for the job, well maintained, inspected regularly and only operated by well-informed and trained staff. A violation of any of these restrictions is a crime in the United Kingdom, and you must report it promptly. If any person suffers harm as a result, you must prosecute the criminal.

6C’s in Health and Social care

The 6Cs are-

  1. Care
  2. Compassion
  3. Courage
  4. Communication
  5. Commitment
  6. Competence

These are the set of values that are central to the Compassion in Practice strategy. NHS England Chief Nursing Officer Jane Cummings drew the 6Cs. They debuted in December 2012.

These values and their associated These values and their associated behaviours underpin the high-quality care delivered by nurses, midwives and care staff. Putting them together in this way defines a vision, an opportunity to reinforce the enduring values and beliefs that underpin care wherever it takes place.


So, basically, your duty of care requires you to promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals. Your duty also includes preventing them from coming to harm. Your duty of care in health and social care is no exception to this general rule.

In addition, you must also allow individuals to make their own choices. You are not in your right to prevent them from doing whatever they deem necessary. This is the case even if you believe it’s an unwise choice. Every individual has a right to live as independently as possible and make their own decisions.

If they are legally capable, which means if they have the mental capacity, you should support their choices and not take away from them.

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