How Are Vulnerable Patients Protected in Hospitals?
Any person who enters a hospital or clinic should be regarded as important, this goes without saying. There are, however, some individuals who need more protection than others. Patients who need extra physical and emotional support are regarded as vulnerable patients. Ensuring that vulnerable groups are safeguarded during their stay at a medical facility needs to be at the top of every health institute’s priority list. The question is “How Are Vulnerable Patients Protected in Hospitals?”.
In this article, we’ll take a look at who the most vulnerable patients are and how they can be protected.
Who are the most vulnerable patients and how can we ensure their protection?
Vulnerable patients can be described as those who may not be able to make decisions for themselves. These patients may need assistance with physical tasks such as eating or exercising, or they might require urgent emotional assistance.
Patients who can be classified as vulnerable include:
- Individuals who have mental health problems
- The frail and disabled
- The elderly
- Patients who are chronically ill
- Individuals who are terminally ill
- Sedated and anesthetised patients
But what about children?
Children can sometimes be classified as vulnerable patients, but this is only generally the case when there are no parents or guardians to take care of them and make decisions for them.
How are vulnerable patients being safeguarded while in hospital?
When it comes to safeguarding vulnerable patients, there are two crucial steps that need to be followed. These two steps include:
- Hiring staff who are good in character and do not have any negative marks against their name and;
- Reporting and then resolving cases where vulnerable patients have fallen victim to abuse.
Who are the people that have the most intimate relationships with patients?
Individuals who have intimate relationships with vulnerable patients are the ones who need to be checked and monitored – they are also the ones who can do the “checking and monitoring”. These people include:
- Friends and relatives
To check characters and personal records, it’s important that hospital staff and private nurses and doctors do a DBS check before they practice. It’s also important that upon being hired, health workers are given sufficient training to check for scenarios where patients may be subject to abuse or ill-treatment.
What is a DBS check?
DBS stands for Disclosure and Barring Service. When one applies for a DBS check, then the DBS will conduct a criminal record check on the name/s raised. These checks are generally administered by employees and organizations or in this case, hospitals.
DBS checks are categorised into 3 levels, namely:
- A basic check. This is the lowest level of check that can be applied and is usually conducted as part of the recruitment process for any job.
- A standard check. This type of check takes a more in-depth look into a person’s history. It will show records of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings, and reprimands. A standard check is typically reserved for professionals and those who come into contact with children and vulnerable groups regularly.
- An enhanced check. This is the highest level of checking and applies to everyone who works or volunteers directly with children and or vulnerable adults. It checks for any criminal record or activity and also includes checking the Children’s and Adults Barred list to ensure that a person has not been barred from working with these groups.
Doctors, nurses, and caregivers will qualify for an enhanced DBS check.
Do nurses need a DBS check?
Doctors are not the only hospital personnel who come into close contact with patients who are vulnerable. Nurses and caregivers also work with these vulnerable groups and as such, a DBS check will be done on them before they are hired.
While DBS checks do help reduce the events where vulnerable patients are abused, ill-treated, or neglected, the sad reality is that abuse of vulnerable patients still occurs. While adult safeguarding is a good starting point, more awareness is still needed. Doctors, nurses, and caregivers should be continuously trained to spot signs of abuse and neglect. They should also be encouraged to report suspicious behaviour immediately.