Purpose - Keeping individuals safe from harm and exploitation is a clearly articulated goal within both the health and social care sectors. Two key concepts associated with achieving this common aim are safety and safeguarding. The purpose of this paper is to critically appraise the differences in safety terminology used in health and social care, including opportunities and challenges for greater integration of safety systems across health and social care in England.
Design/methodology/approach - This paper presents the authors' viewpoint based on personal, professional and research experience.
Findings - In healthcare, safety is usually conceptualised as the management of error, with risk considered on a universal level. In social care, the safeguarding process balances choice and control with individualised approaches to keeping adults safe, but lacks the established reporting pathways to capture safety incidents. Efforts to safely integrate health and social care services are currently constrained by a lack of shared understanding of the concepts of safety and safeguarding without further consideration of how these approaches to keeping people safe can be better aligned. As such, there is a need for a single, unified discourse of patient safety that cuts across the patient safety and safeguarding concepts and their associated frameworks in health and social care settings.
Originality/value - A single unified concept of safety in health and social care could coincide with an integrated approach to the delivery of health and social care, improving the care of patients transitioning between services.