Tag Archives: duty of care

Webinar/tutorial: Hanged if you do – Hanged if you don’t

A 90 minute online webinar, Wednesday 24th February 7pm – 8:30pm

Joining fee £10:00

One of the biggest headaches for health and social care workers is how to make sense of their duty of care. On the one hand we’re told that we must take steps to ensure safety and on the other hand we need to respect people’s rights to make their own decisions, even if they’re risky. This can be a delicate balance to strike.

How not to be hanged

Nobody needs to be hanged

It’s true that the law surrounding duty of care can be complicated but care workers aren’t expected to have the same knowledge as barristers. We’re expected to understand the basic principles of care law, to know what to do if we’re unsure and we have to act reasonably. We don’t even need to be right every time. We only need to be reasonable.

This 90 minute webinar/tutorial is designed for workers who are far too busy delivering care to spend their time reading through long reports of legal precedent. It covers the basic points we all need to be safe ‘at the coal face’ of care delivery in a practical, work-based way that is both engaging and understandable.

Delivered in plain English, the basic message of ‘Hanged if you do – Hanged if you don’t’ is

‘Don’t panic’.

By taking the mystery and complicated jargon out of the equation, Stuart Sorensen guides workers step by step from basic principles to a solid understanding of duty of care. Real life stories and clear examples are used throughout to make the webinar both absorbing and easy to apply in practice.

Click here to join us on Wednesday 24th February 2021 7pm – 8:30pm GMT

Joining fee £10:00

The webinar covers:


The duty of care myth

Balancing rights, risks and responsibilities

Common law and necessity

Being reasonable


Mental capacity and the right to decide

Acting in best interests

How not to be Hanged

Click here to join us on Wednesday 24th February 2021 7pm – 8:30pm GMT

Joining fee £10:00

After the mental capacity assessment

Assessing mental capacity is one thing but what happens next? What must we do once we know that a person lacks the mental capacity to make this particular decision at this particular time?



A duty of care myth

Hanged if you do… hanged if you don’t!

Many people are confused about their duty of care. They think they’re somehow responsible for the actions of other people. This leads them to try and prevent people from doing things that they have a perfect right to do because it might be risky. In truth our duty of care is actually much simpler than most people imagine:

  • Do all that you reasonably can;
  • Don’t break the law;
  • You are not responsible for the actions of other people;
  • You are responsible for your own actions in the situation you’re in;
  • Care workers are judged upon process, not outcome.

Complete the contact form below to arrange training for your staff.

Duty of care: A slug in a bottle

Donoghue vs StevensonIf there’s one thing that unites almost everyone concerned with health and social care services it’s the fear of being sued. Otherwise rational and courageous workers have been reduced to quivering wrecks at the mere suggestion of litigation or the slightest suggestion that they might have failed in or ‘neglected’ their duty of care.

Duty of care is such a preoccupation for workers that it crops up daily in conversation and in practice whenever we encounter ‘thorny’ issues relating to ‘health and safety’, ‘rights and responsibilities’, ‘freedom of choice’, ‘confidentiality’ and a host of other topics. What all of these conversations have in common is ‘duty of care’.

However not everyone who hears the term understands what it means or indeed where it comes from. This is a shame because as we all know knowledge is power and one way to know about something is to know a bit about its history and development.

Lord Atkin delivered a judgement in the House of Lords on August 26th 1932, thus ending a legal battle that had gone on for four years. The judgement became what is known in UK law as a ‘binding precedent’ because (with the exception of the new Supreme Court) no other UK court has the authority to overrule the principle that comes from it. This is the principle that most Duty of Care decisions are based upon.

What is this principle that was so important it still affects us today? We’ll get to that. First let me tell you the basic facts of the story.

May Donoghue was a shop worker in Paisley, near Glasgow who, one Saturday afternoon went with a friend to buy an ice cream float at Frankie Minghella’s café. As it turned out Mrs. Donoghue didn’t pay, her friend did – and this is significant.

Having finished most of her ice-cream float she discovered the partly decomposed carcass of a slug in the bottom of the bottle that had contained her drink. She was later treated for gastro-entiritis (presumably as a direct result of consuming some of the corpse).

Mrs. Donoghue’s next move was to sue the owner of the café. However the café owner, Mr. Minghella argued that his only duty of care was to the person who bought his goods and since Mrs. Donoghue had not paid herself there was no legal case to answer.

Not to be deterred Mrs. Donoghue turned her attention to Mr. David Stevenson whose company had manufactured and bottled the soft drink in question. The argument was that Mr. Stevenson had a duty of care to the people who used his products in the end – however far removed they may be from his own bottling and production plant.

Lord Atkin’s ruling was that Stevenson was responsible and stated in the ‘Obiter Dicta’ (legal jargon for ‘last words’ that explain the judgement) that we all have a legal responsibility not to injure our neighbour.

“You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.”

The definition of ‘neighbour’ he used was this:

“persons so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.”

In other words we all have a legal duty, ‘a Duty of Care’ to consider the effects of our actions upon other people who may be affected. In health and social care this basic principle includes following the various rules and legal obligations that surround our work.

In practice it means that:

We all have a duty of care to the ultimate consumer

That’s the principle of this case: Donoghue v Stevenson 1932. However far removed we might be from the face to face ‘frontline’ of clinical practice we all have a duty of care to ensure that our practice is safe and reasonable.


Privileged glimpses 15: A duty of care myth

This series of blog posts first appeared a few years ago on a now defunct blog called ‘Care Training’. It was inspired by the training maxim of ‘making the unconscious conscious’. It is intended to take what really ought to be the most basic principles of health and social care and put them down on paper. The series isn’t only an exercise in stating the obvious though whatever the title might suggest. It’s actually intended as a philosophical foundation manual for workers and informal carers to help them get their care ‘on track’ and then to keep it that way.

Many people are confused about the exact nature of their Duty of Care toward the people they look after. To a large extent this is because they think that they are somehow accountable for the actions of other people (in this case the client or service-user).

This gives people the sense that they are:

Hanged if they do and Hanged if they don’t

In reality, you are responsible only for what you do – not for what your client does. If you do all that you can within the law to minimise risk, to help them to make decisions in their best interests and to help the client to cope more effectively then you have fulfilled your duty of care. This is true whatever the outcome might be.

  • You are not responsible for someone else’s behaviour.
  • You are responsible for your own behaviour in the situation in which you find yourself (including acting to keep others safe when necessary).
  • You are not expected to take away people’s rights to choose if they are able to.
  • Care workers are judged upon process – not upon outcome.


Do all that you reasonably can within the law.