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Safeguarding adults

Definition of a vulnerable adult:

  • Aged 18 years or over;
  • Who may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and
  • Who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation


Your responsibilities when you have safeguarding concerns:

  • Assess the situation i.e. are emergency services required?
  • Ensure the safety and wellbeing of the individual
  • Establish what the individual’s views and wishes are about the safeguarding issue and procedure
  • Maintain any evidence
  • Follow internal procedures for reporting incidents/risks
  • Remain calm and try not to show any shock or disbelief
  • Listen carefully and demonstrate understanding by acknowledging regret and concern that this has happened
  • Inform the person that you are required to share the information, explaining what information will be shared and why
  • Make a written record of what the person has told you, using their words or what you have seen as well as your actions


You have a responsibility to follow the six safeguarding principles:

Principle 1 – Empowerment - Presumption of person led decisions and consent

Adults should be in control of their care and their consent is needed for decisions and actions designed to protect them. There must be clear justification where action is taken without consent such as lack of capacity or other legal or public interest justification. Where a person is not able to control the decision, they will still be included in decisions to the extent that they are able. Decisions made must respect the person’s age, culture, beliefs and lifestyle.

Principle 2 – Protection – Support and representation for those in greatest need

There is a duty to support all patients to protect themselves. There is a positive obligation to take additional measures for patients who may be less able to protect themselves.

Principle 3 – Prevention

Prevention of harm or abuse is a primary goal. Prevention involves helping the person to reduce risks of harm and abuse that are unacceptable to them. Prevention also involves reducing risks of neglect and abuse occurring within health services.

Principle 4 – Proportionality – Proportionality and least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented

Responses to harm and abuse should reflect the nature and seriousness of the concern. Responses must be the least restrictive of the person’s rights and take account of the person’s age, culture, wishes, lifestyle and beliefs. Proportionality also relates to managing concerns in the most effective and efficient way.

Principle 5 – Partnerships – Local solutions through services working with their communities

Safeguarding adults will be most effective where citizens, services and communities work collaboratively to prevent, identify and respond to harm and abuse.

Principle 6 – Accountability – Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding

Services are accountable to patients, public and to their governing bodies. Working in partnerships also entails being open and transparent with partner agencies about how safeguarding responsibilities are being met.

(Ref: The role of Health Service Practitioners DH 2011)


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