Safeguarding issues for care providers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The importance of Safeguarding vulnerable adults residing in care homes has never been more important than during the pandemic. Care staff, be they managers, a carer, nurses or personal assistants are all facing this challenge . 

The Care Act statutory guidance (para. 14.7, June 2020) defines adult safeguarding as:

“Protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect, while at the same time making sure that the adult’s wellbeing is promoted including, where appropriate, having regard to their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding on any action. This must recognise that adults sometimes have complex interpersonal relationships and may be ambivalent, unclear or unrealistic about their personal circumstances.”

Taken from the guidance, the phase “its about people and organisations working together” is often overlooked and can be difficult to implement in practice.  With the fall -out from the first lockdown beginning  to show, we are seeing more cases presenting with complex issues on breach of duty and causation. For example, in cases where patients might have been discharged from hospital in haste, whose responsibility should it be to check there is an adequate after care treatment plan is in place? In the context of COVID, should the care home be under a legal obligation to clarify a resident’s discharge instructions or is that not an integral part of the hospital’s duty of care?

Safeguarding reports are starting to document the dilemmas staff at care homes and within hospitals were facing. This will have a wider impact on care claims generally as Safeguarding reports are often referred to as contemporaneous evidence in the context of on -going civil claims. Hence, any perceived failure to delay treatment can be particularly damaging for the care provider.

BLM is consistently evaluating the difficult legal challenges this will pose for claims brought against care providers and is happy to discuss these issues with you. 

Written by Raveena Mehta, Solicitor at BLM

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