‘Duty of care’ is a phrase used to describe the obligations implicit in your role as a health or social care worker.
As a health or social care worker you owe a duty of care to your patients/ service users, your colleagues, your employer, yourself and the public interest. Everyone has a duty of care – it is not something that you can opt out of.
The duty of care applies to all staff of all occupations and levels. It applies to those working part time or full time, those in agency or temporary roles
as well as students and volunteers.
You have a duty of care, whether you are a registered professional or non- registered. It applies to everyone,
from nurses to porters, cleaners to receptionists, paramedics to therapists and technicians to social workers.
The duty of care to a patient or service user exists from the moment they
are accepted for treatment or a task
is accepted and they begin to receive services. This may be, for example,
on admission to a ward, acceptance onto a caseload or once registered at an accident and emergency department. You have a duty of care to all patients or service users even if you are not directly responsible for their care.
All health and social care organisations, whether they are public, private or voluntary organisations, also have a duty of care. Their duty of care is to provide
a comprehensive service to citizens and to demonstrate that, within the available resources, the appropriate priorities
are chosen. They must also ensure that those people who are providing care are able to do so safely.
Just because an employee or employer cannot do everything that they believe needs to be done, does not mean
they have breached their duty of care. There are not limitless resources available, 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.