On 20 August 2018 the Royal College of Nursing published guidance for healthcare staff aimed at more effectively protecting and safeguarding vulnerable adults.

The document ‘Adult Safeguarding: Roles and Competencies for Health Care Staff’, is an intercollegiate endeavour which was contributed to by many other professional organisations such as the British Association of Social Workers, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. It is also supported by NHS England and NHS Wales, and intended to have relevance to both health care professionals and social care colleagues.

The aim is to provide a point of reference to identify and develop competencies for the healthcare workforce in safeguarding vulnerable adults by setting out minimum training requirements along with education and training principles. The guidance notes that there is increasing health and social care integration which necessitates new roles and ways of working.

Competency framework

The guidance sets out a competency framework with different levels of competency required from each healthcare staff member. The levels are identified as:

  • Level one – all staff working in a healthcare setting
  • Level two – all practitioners who have regular contact with patients, their families/carers, or the public
  • Level three – registered healthcare staff working with adults who engage in assessing, planning, intervening and evaluating the needs of adults where there are safeguarding concerns (as appropriate to role)
  • Level four – specialist roles – named professionals
  • Level five - specialist roles – designated professionals
  • Board level – chief executive officers, trust and health board executive and non-executive directors/members, commissioning body directors. This includes the board of private, independent and charitable health care and voluntary sector as well as statutory providers

The document uses this framework to provide information on the minimum level of staff, core competencies, knowledge, skills, attitude and values that should be maintained by staff within each level. It also sets out training expectations and learning outcomes for each level to ensure that staff can gain this knowledge.

There are six principles that underpin adult safeguarding as set out in the Care Act 2014; empowerment, prevention, proportionality, protection, partnerships, accountability.

As an extension of the main principles, one of the most important concepts of safeguarding, as highlighted in the new guidance, is that it is everyone’s responsibility. This ethos of inter-professional and inter-organisational working, information sharing and training to ensure best practice is the driving force behind the document.

The new guidance will hopefully provide some clarity around the role of healthcare staff in safeguarding vulnerable adults moving forward.