Staff in health and social care need to know about the law for a number of reasons:
They are public officers, bound by statute, but also given special powers beyond those available to the ordinary individual, for the exercise of which they must be accountable, through recording and supervision and complaints, as well as litigation.
They can ‘whistle blow’ in the public interest, under the protection of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, but more fundamentally, they are professionals, upon whom the day to day integrity of public service depends.
They are entitled to the protection of the law of employment and contract (with regard to their employer), the law of negligence (with regard to their own personal physical and psychological safety), and the law of Human Rights (with regard to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment, and respect for their private and home lives).
They are bound by the law of negligence (with regard to the safety of the authority’s clients), the law of confidentiality, trespass, assault to the person and wrongful detention. Mental incapacity on the part of some of the service users will make officers’ day to day actions potentially unlawful, because intervention without consent can amount to a civil law wrong.
They are bound by administrative law principles with regard to express and implied statutory limitations on what they can do in the discharge of their functions, which may not have been understood by their employers – as well as the common law principles requiring reasonableness and procedural fairness in all that they do. Staff cannot be disciplined for refusal to carry out orders which are unlawful in themselves.
Despite liability generally attaching to their employers for officers’ wrongs in these fields, it will be the staff’s own evidence and recording practice which will be relevant in court…