Guidance for doctors on protecting vulnerable adults

  • Date: 04 August 2011

DOCTORS are reminded of their duty to protect vulnerable adults from abuse or neglect in new guidance from the BMA.

Safeguarding vulnerable adults – a toolkit for general practitioners aims to provide step-by-step instructions on issues such as identifying vulnerable adults and offers advice to doctors who suspect patients are being abused.

The toolkit comprises a series of cards, each of which contain a checklist of key points. It stresses that safeguarding vulnerable adults is not the same as child protection and that doctors should help vulnerable adults lead independent lives.

The information pack guides doctors through various scenarios, including an elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s who wants to live in her own home.

The Department of Health commissioned the BMA to produce the toolkit following concerns over a lack of clarity on the issue.

Chairman of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee, Dr Tony Calland, said: “The way doctors deal with these possible situations demonstrates how complex caring for vulnerable adults can be. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and each case needs to be judged individually. This toolkit will help to guide and support doctors in their decision-making.

“Our guidance also helps doctors identify which adults have the capacity to protect and promote their own interests, and which adults may need decisions made on their behalf.”

The areas covered in the BMA toolkit include:

  • What is safeguarding?
  • Which adults may be vulnerable?
  • What constitutes abuse and neglect?
  • When should concerns about patient safety be reported?

It also highlights issues relating to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and reminds doctors they have a duty to act if they suspect patients are at risk of harm from poor standards of clinical care.

Read Safeguarding vulnerable adults – a toolkit for general practitioners

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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