BMA guidance

Adult safeguarding toolkit

This toolkit is about the doctor's role in safeguarding adults who may be at risk of abuse or neglect.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Thursday 4 January 2024
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

What you’ll get from this guide

  • How to identify adults in need of safeguarding, and understand your responsibilities.
  • Practical guidance on capacity and confidentiality in the context of safeguarding.
  • Further information on identifying and responding to domestic violence and trafficked persons.
  • Advice on when to refer and/or report.


How to use this guide

This guidance will provide you with the key legal and ethical considerations you need to take into account concerning adult safeguarding, and signposts to other sources of support and information.

It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion with colleagues. You can seek additional advice on specific dilemmas from the BMA’s medical ethics and human rights department, the GMC, or your medical defence organisation.

  • What adult safeguarding is
  • Adults who might require safeguarding
  • Your safeguarding responsibilities 
  • The six safeguarding principles
  • Abuse and neglect - the categories
  • Mental capacity in safeguarding
  • Adults lacking capacity
  • Deprivation of liberty safeguards
  • When information can be shared
  • Good communication in safeguarding
  • Government's anti-radicalisation prevent strategy
  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Modern slavery and trafficked people
  • Safeguarding adults being part of ordinary care
  • GP referrals through safeguarding services
  • Reporting concerns about patient safety 
  • Useful sources of guidance