Welcome to the RCGP Adult Safeguarding Toolkit. Legislation has been produced within the UK’s four nations since 2003 to protect adults from abuse. Along with other national guidance, these pieces of legislation clarify the roles of the three key players in adult safeguarding, namely social care, health care and the police. Social care takes the lead in adult safeguarding but primary care is key in identifying adults at risk, and therefore reporting abuse or potential abuse to the local safeguarding adults team.

The Safeguarding Adults at Risk of Harm toolkit provides info sheets, templates, and handy guides for all the primary care team. The toolkit assists good knowledge and use of relevant legislation when promoting good care for adults at risk of harm, or those lacking the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

The toolkit can be used by any general practice in the UK.


As GPs we have a very unique and privileged role. Patients and their families allow us into their lives, often at times of great distress, in order to support and help them. This is a great privilege, but also gives us great responsibility. It is when we get into the realms of safeguarding that these two roles, privilege and responsibility, most clearly meet. Combining these roles enables us to be powerful advocates for our most vulnerable patients.

What is adult safeguarding?

"Safeguarding means protecting an adult's right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect, while at the same time making sure that the adult’s wellbeing is promoted including, where appropriate, having regard to their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding on any action. This must recognise that adults sometimes have complex interpersonal relationships and may be ambivalent, unclear or unrealistic about their personal circumstances."

Care and Support Statutory Guidance, Department of Health, updated February 2017.

At its core, adult (and child) safeguarding in primary care is:

  • identifying vulnerability in order to support and empower;
  • advocating for, and giving a voice to, those who are struggling to be, or not being heard;
  • protecting the basic human rights of all in our communities, particularly those who are unable to protect themselves from harm

How will the RCGP Adult Safeguarding Toolkit help general practice?

Safeguarding is not new to general practice, and practices will already be aware of their duties and responsibilities around safeguarding. This toolkit is aimed at taking safeguarding to the next level in primary care – to really focus on how we implement and embed safeguarding practice, ethos and culture.

The toolkit will be evolving over the next few months. It is designed to be a source of information and practical resources for general practice. We hope it will generate lots of discussion both within, and outside of, general practice.

Many organisations have already produced very helpful guidance for health professionals such as the GMC, NMC, CQC and the Department of Health to name a few. Each area in the UK may also have locally written guidelines. This toolkit is not meant to replace all of these, but to complement the guidance that is already available and provide practical guidance.

Our vision at the RCGP is that the safeguarding of adults and children will be embedded into every day routine general practice and become a normal part of our ongoing holistic care.