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Duty of Care in Health and Social Care

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What is meant by “duty of care”?

We all want to have reasonable care related to individuals’ best interests; this includes protecting service users from any harm or abuse that can be occurred and avoiding any acts that could result in the injury. But, unfortunately, we don’t all understand the concept of it and the way system is working. In this article, we’ll provide you with the most important information about the duty of care in health and with the potential conflicts and dilemmas that may arise between the duty of care and individual’s rights.

A duty of care is a duty to promote wellbeing and make sure that people are kept safe from harm abuse and injury. You have a duty of care to all those receiving care and support in your workplace. Workers must have the knowledge and skills to act on their duty of care. Workers should identify areas of concern, report concerns in agreed ways. Your manager will be able to advise you on what you do if you are not ensured. Workers must respect and protect individuals’ rights, promote individuals’ independence and enable the person to make an informed choice.

There is the difference in how the duty of care applies under common law and statute law. Under common law, a person may be sued for breaching his duty of care if his actions cause harm to another person. Compensation is paid to the injured person by the wrongdoer. Under statute law (legislation) a person is prosecuted for breaching the duty of care, regardless of whether another person is injured. The fine is paid to the government.

The duty of care under legislation has employers, employees, self-employed people, those having control of premises (building owners), importers, manufacturers and suppliers, erectors and installers of equipment, principal contractors. The duty of care should mean for you taking responsibility for your health and safety at work and avoid harming anyone else (through things you do or fail to do).

The duty of care means that staff must aim to provide high quality care to the best of their ability and say if there are any reasons why they may be unable to do this. Staff must adhere to a standard of reasonable care and are expected to:

  • keep their knowledge and skills up to date;
  • provide a service of no less a quality than that to be expected based on the skills, responsibilities, and range of activities within their particular trade or profession;
  • be in a position to know what should be done to ensure that the service is provided safely;
  • keep accurate and contemporaneous records of their work and share information with those involved in an individual’s care;
  • not delegate work, or accept delegated work, unless it is obvious that the person to whom the work is delegated is competent to carry out the work concerned in a safe and appropriately skilled manner;
  • protect confidential information;
  • share information when it’s appropriate to do this (for instance, when consent has been obtained).

Example: A woman succeeds in establishing a manufacturer of ginger beer on her duty of care, where it had been negligently produced. Following this, the duty concept has expanded into a coherent judicial test, which must be satisfied to claim in negligence.

An individual may be owed a duty of care by another, to ensure that they do not suffer any unreasonable harm or loss. If such a duty is found to be breached, legal liability is imposed upon the duty-owner, to compensate the victim for any losses they incurred. It arises where one individual or group undertakes an activity which could reasonably harm another, either physically, mentally, or economically.

Dilemmas and conflict in the workplace

Conflict is serious disagreement and argument about something important. If two people or groups conflict, they have had a serious disagreement or argument and have not yet reached an agreement.

Conflict is a state of mind in which you find it impossible to make a decision.

There can be the conflict between protecting a person’s rights and independence; his safety and wellbeing. This can lead to dilemmas. It is important to balance people’s rights to make choices; employers need to protect individuals from harm. One of the common dilemmas is mental capacity. Some individuals may not have the ability to understand their choices, make an informed decision, understand what could happen. If decisions have to be made for an individual who lacks capacity, the decision made must be in his best interests.

Conflict or challenging behavior happens as a result of distress or because needs are not being met. Reasons could be: biological, social, environmental, or psychological. There can also be managing conflicts. Acting on early signs of frustration and aggression can stop conflict development into violence. Always treat individuals with respect and dignity. If possible and safe: take them to a quiet place, ask questions and listen carefully, take their feeling seriously, try to accept a way forward.

To avoid any dilemmas we recommend you to take a look at the next information:

  • Directors/officers/employees must not misuse information or position to advantage themselves or someone else, or to harm company;
  • Directors/officers must not divert corporate opportunities to themselves or other entities in which they are interested;
  • Misuse of corporate information may also contravene prohibition on insider trading.

Directors must avoid situations where there is a conflict between company’s interests and:

  • their interests;
  • their duty to another person/company.

Common mistakes are causing dilemmas: conflicts aren’t managed, relying on experts exclusively, not understanding finances, disengaged directors, not focusing on mission, not seeking professional advice, assuming your questions are silly.

You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee, for instance in injuring your neighbor. Who, then, in-law is my neighbor? Persons who are so closely and directly affected by your actions that you ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when you’re directing your mind to the act or omissions that are mentioned in the question.

Comments and complaints

Comments are something that you say or write that expresses your opinion. They can be positive, neutral or negative.

Complaints are statements in which you express your dissatisfaction with a particular situation. They can be just negative.

The duty of care includes a duty to support individuals to make comments or complaints about their care. Legislation and guidance relating to comments and complaints include:

  • the local authority social services and NHS complaints regulations 2009;
  • the NHS Constitution in 2011;
  • your organization’s agreed ways of working.

The best ways for supporting individuals to make a complaint are to:

– provide a private and quiet space for comments or complaints to be made;

– inform the individual of the confidentiality policy;

– listen to the individual making sure that you do not judge;

– explain the complaints procedure and whom their comments or complaints should be forward to;

– inform your manager that’s they are aware of the situation.

The mistake is an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge. The mistake has a lot of uses, but they all have to do with doing the wrong thing. Mistakes must be dealt appropriately to make the similar things not to happen again. They can be:

– adverse events (action or lack of actions that lead to unexpected, unintended and preventable harm);

– errors (not doing something as it should have been done, for instance through bad planning or being forgetful);

– near misses (situations where action could have harmed the individual but, either by the change of purpose, was prevented);

– Incidents (specific negative events. In health and social care serious incidents are described as events which need investigation and that cause severe harm or damage to either the person receiving care or the organization).

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly. You should remember that the important element of your health is the duty of care. It’s about protecting confidentiality and respecting the preferences of patients and service users about information sharing decisions. These two requirements are by no means incompatible but must shape how services are designed and managed.

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