The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has unveiled new safeguarding guidance for the healthcare system, designed to protect vulnerable adults at risk of abuse.
The standards call for senior, board-level, executives to receive additional training – in addition to meeting the basic competency level of safeguarding – in order to better protect vulnerable patients.
The RCN was commissioned by NHS England to develop the standards, which were published earlier this week, and has consulted over 30 other Royal Colleges and professional organisations involved in healthcare since January.
The guidance was developed to protect against common forms of abuse, such as ‘cuckooing’, where people takes over an individual’s home against their will, for criminal purposes; people trafficking and modern slavery; domestic abuse; and internet abuse – such as being the subject of non-consensual online pornography.
The standards include five competency levels and an additional board specific level for chief executives, trust and health board executives and directors – including directors of commissioning bodies.
This includes boards of private, independent and voluntary organisations, as well as statutory providers.
The guidance comprises a stipulation for board-level executives to complete 30 minutes training within six weeks of commencing taking up a post, in order to comply with level one competency
The framework also includes an additional two hours of refresher training within three years, alongside the board specific training.
The board specific training will cover appropriate referral mechanisms, an understanding of accountability and governance, and a thorough comprehension of gross negligence and adult protection.
Chairs of trusts, health boards and other health providers and commissioning bodies will, under the framework of the guidance, hold responsibility for the ‘effective operation of the board with regard to adult safeguarding’.
Chief executives will provide ‘strategic leadership’ and promote a ‘culture of supporting good practice’ when it comes to safeguarding, according to the report.
As part of the standard, an executive director lead will also hold specific responsibility within the new framework – nominated as the board member who takes responsibility for adult safeguarding issues as a whole.
The executive director lead will report to the board on the performance of their responsibilities, and will ‘provide leadership in the long-term strategic planning for adult safeguarding services’.
Dr Dawne Garrett, professional lead for older people and dementia at the RCN and lead author of the new guidance, said: ‘Ultimately, overall responsibility for ensuring that this guidance works rests with the board and it is right and proper that any failures in safeguarding adults at risk of abuse, harm or neglect must be shouldered at the very top.’
Dr Garrett added that board members should have the same ‘basic level of knowledge’ about safeguarding as all staff working in healthcare, as well as ‘additional levels of competency by virtue of their position’. She suggested that a non-executive director on the board should be appointed to ensure the measures are carried out throughout the organisation.
Other healthcare professionals will also be required to undertake 30 minutes of training within six weeks of commencing their post, with additional refresher training depending on their job level.
Those who assess, plan, intervene and evaluate the needs of adults where there are safeguarding concerns will undertake eight hours of refresher training for level three. And staff members in specialist roles would complete 24 hours of training for competency level four and five.
‘While training must occur at all levels, overall responsibility for the strategy and policies behind safeguarding will fall to the chief executives of healthcare organisations, backed up by additional leadership at board level from the executive director and the lead for safeguarding,’ said Dr Garrett.
The document was created after a ‘plethora of abuse scandals’ involving adults at risk, according to Dr Garrett.
‘Healthcare staff now have a set of competencies they need to meet to help them safeguard people from harm. Until now, there hasn’t been an equivalent. This is an ambitious document that will help keep safe many adults with differing types of care needs across the UK.’