Adult support and protection: guidance for GPs and primary care teams

Revised adult support and protection guidance to help GPs and practitioners be confident that their actions will meet safeguarding expectations and improve outcomes.

What is Adult Support and Protection?

In 2008 new legislation was introduced to support and protect adults who are at risk of harm – the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 ("the 2007 Act"). The 2007 Act requires public bodies to work together to support and protect adults who are unable to safeguard themselves, their property and their rights. Public bodies are required to work together to take steps to decide whether someone is an adult at risk of harm and balancing the need to intervene with an adult's right to live as independently as possible.

The 2007 Act defines harm as 'all harmful conduct' and in particular includes:

  • Conduct which causes physical harm,
  • Conduct which causes psychological harm (e.g. by causing fear, alarm or distress),
  • Unlawful conduct which appropriates or adversely affects property, rights or interests (e.g. theft, fraud, embezzlement or extortion),
  • Conduct which causes self-harm.

This list is not exhaustive, and all kinds of harm can fall within the scope of the 2007 Act.

Related types of harm may also be initially referred through Adult Support and Protection in your area but please check your local processes e.g. Human Trafficking, FGM etc. Further information on these topics can be found online (Trafficking) and online (FGM).

GPs and Primary Care Staff are well placed to identify adults at risk of harm and are a vital component in the multi-agency arrangements to support and protect where it is necessary.

The focus of the 2007 Act is to support and protect adults (individuals, aged 16 years or over) at risk of harm. There are three elements that define to adult at risk:

  • those unable to safeguard their own well-being, property, rights or other interests,
  • are at risk of harm, and
  • because they are affected by disability, disorder, illness or infirmity are more vulnerable to being harmed than adults who are not so affected.


  • an adult is not necessarily an adult at risk of harm simply because they have a disability, and
  • adult support and protection applies to those with and without mental capacity.

You do not have to evidence that all elements are met in order to make a referral. Your information may form part of a larger picture. The test is that you 'know or believe' an adult is at risk of harm. In this regard, it is ultimately the responsibility of the council or delegated agency to decide whether an adult meets the definition of an adult at risk of harm.

When deciding to make a referral and what information to share, consider what you believe is relevant and proportionate to the specific concerns you have.

Please see 'To Share or Not To Share – Checklist'



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