The guidance, entitled ‘Safeguarding vulnerable adults – a toolkit for general practitioners’, stresses the obligation doctors have to protect vulnerable adults.
It also points out that legislation is in place to protect doctors who wish to identify abusers or systemic healthcare failures or to report poor performance by health professionals.
BMA’s medical ethics committee chairman Dr Tony Calland said scenarios set out in the guidance demonstrated how complex caring for vulnerable adults can be.
'There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and each case needs to be judged individually,’ he said. ‘This toolkit will help to guide and support doctors in their decision-making.’
He added: ‘Our guidance also helps doctors identify which adults have the capacity to protect and promote their own interests, and which adults may need decisions made on their behalf.’
The toolkit stresses that safeguarding vulnerable adults is not the same as child protection. Some vulnerable adults may be incapable of looking after any aspect of their lives. Others may experience short periods of illness or disability with an associated reduction in their ability to make decisions.
The guidance is aimed at GPs, but the BMA believes any professional working in health care settings with vulnerable adults would find it useful.