Ethical approaches

Many of the colleagues you will work with, including nurses, doctors and social workers, are bound by ethical codes of conduct. These set out standards of performance to ensure that their practice is fair, non-judgemental, respectful and non-prejudicial. They make individual professionals aware of their own responsibility to follow the steps of their code at all times in promoting the health, welfare and interests of the people they care for. The codes also define individuals’ accountability for the things they do as professionals: understanding the idea of accountability is a very important part of practice and is something we’ll return to in quality in care.

In each of the UK countries there are codes of conduct, which may be nationally or locally driven.

Currently, the only health care assistants regulated in Northern Ireland are those working in social care. They are regulated by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council. See: Standards of Conduct and Practice.

These codes have been developed following consultations with many interested groups, including patients and the public. They set out to support you to provide care that is:

  • safe and effective (meaning it brings positive benefits to the patient/client)
  • compassionate and respectful
  • always focused on doing what is best for patients/clients.

The codes help us to see patients/clients as individuals and  to do everything in our power to preserve their dignity and independence. They also empower us to report appropriately when we see care that does not live up to these standards – again, we’ll return to this vital topic in raising concerns.

Much of this programme focuses on the ethical issues that underpin our codes of conduct and  define our practice on a day-by-day basis – things like safeguarding vulnerable people, confidentiality and consent, raising concerns, reporting incidents and accidents, anti-discriminatory practice and preserving people’s dignity. So ethical approaches in general, and the codes of practice in particular, are threaded throughout the resource, providing a basis not just for what we learn from it, but also for how we must practice as health care assistants.

If you are not already familiar with the code of conduct for your country or workplace, you should take some time now to access and study it. You’ll also benefit from looking at codes from other countries or organisations – you’ll find that all codes share common ethical ground and a desire to ensure that everything we do brings positive benefits to patients/clients.