Protecting those most vulnerable from abuse and mistreatment in health and social care is central to professional practice
The World Health Organisation suggest for many staying out of harms’ way is a matter of locking doors and windows and avoiding dangerous places, people and situations; however for many individuals requiring care it is not quite so easy. The threat of abuse is often behind those closed doors, hidden from public view and for those living in the midst of adult abuse fear permeates many aspects of their lives. We just have to think of mid Staffs and Winterbourne View Hospital to realise the consequences for patients when staff get things wrong. The role of professionals in Safeguarding Adults at risk of harm from those providing care is an increasingly important, and complex, area of practice requiring a good level of skill and ability. Whilst the media rightly focuses on the failings of the system it is important for us to also celebrate the little successes achieved on a daily basis but never seen by the media or wider society, but which make such a difference to those professionals work with. Its right not to be complacent, but, it is also right to be confident, confident that those caring for the most vulnerable do make a difference.
However, caring is not like any other job, it is not something you can do on automatic pilot. Caring requires staff to continually update their skills and knowledge, and maybe more importantly, to stop and think about what they are doing, to reflect on their daily practice so that practice does not become routine. Otherwise carers can develop ‘bad’ habits and take shortcuts that put meeting the requirements of the system before the care of the patient.
Coming into contact with nurses and social workers on a daily basis I know the majority want to do the best they can. Therefore to assist those who work with the most vulnerable we have developed a free on-line tool for practitioners (SAFE tool) to support their professional development in protecting patients at risk of harm. It takes about 5 minutes to complete and provides those who complete it with the resources to stop and think about their practice, to recognise the good and reflect on areas that might require improvement.
The Safeguarding Adults Framework Evaluation tool (SAFE tool) provides practitioners with an easy to use resource, which they can use to both evaluate and develop their practice.
The development of this tool follows work begun in 2010 when Learn to Care commissioned us at the National Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work to develop a framework to quality assure practice in Safeguarding Adults at risk of harm when in hospital or in need of social care to try an ensure consistent practice across England and Wales. Lucy Morrison (Research Assistant) and I undertook research to identify the key areas of practice which were failing those most vulnerable. Findings from CQC inspection reports, serious case reviews, a review of academic research, focus groups and interviews with professionals and managers who deliver services, along with feedback from service users and carers, was collated to discover areas of practice that required improvement. Drawing on work already undertaken by East Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council and Lambeth Safeguarding Adults Partnership the National Capabilities Framework for Safeguarding Adults was born. Since its development over 12,000 copies have been distributed across health and social care departments throughout England and Wales.
The resources above are part of our ongoing commitment to supporting practitioners, and the organisations they work in, to continue improving the lives of those in need of care and support from health and social care services.
We must never forget at the centre of health and social care is an individual who is trusting professionals to care for them, and to step in if they see others mistreating them. Doing nothing is never an option, but doing something requires courage and confidence. We hope these resources will help develop these.