Dignity and Respect

Scope of this chapter

Dignity: Giving someone space where and when they need or want it, working with care and compassion and promoting independence, choice, and control.

Respect: Having due regard for people’s feelings, views, choices, and decisions, and not making assumptions about what they want, like, or how they want to be treated.

Treating people with dignity and respect is not only the right thing to do morally, but also a legal requirement under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 and The Care Act 2014.

This chapter will explain the principles and values that underpin dignity before highlighting the many opportunities that we have every single day to treat people with dignity and respect.

Dignity and respect is at the core of everything we do. That is why it is a core principle and value. This means that it applies to everyone and is always relevant when planning for or providing care and support.

Relevant Regulations

Related Chapters and Guidance

The Common Core Principles of Dignity were developed by Skills for Care.

Caption: The Common Core Principles of Dignity: Skills for Care
Principle What this means in practice

1.Value the uniqueness of every individual

Every person who requires care and support is a unique individual with experiences to share and aspirations to achieve.

2.Uphold the responsibility to shape care and support around each individual

Listening, understanding, honouring and implementing the individual’s personal perspectives and preferences, thereby giving choice and control.

3. Value communicating with individuals in ways that are meaningful to them

How we talk and act towards people is fundamental evidence of our respect for their dignity and other human rights.

4. Recognise and respect how an individual’s dignity may be affected when supported with their personal care

Always remember the importance of helping a person to feel as comfortable as possible; recognising that this is a personal and private activity and something that they would probably rather be doing for themselves if they could.

5. Recognise that an individual’s surroundings and environments are important to their sense of dignity

It is important that an individual feels in control of their environment, understands why any changes are happening and wherever possible has a choice about this and gives permission.

6. Value workplace cultures that actively promote the dignity of everyone

It is everyone’s responsibility to maintain a sense of positive purpose in the work place.

7. Recognise the need to challenge care that may reduce the dignity of the individual

To maintain your personal and professional integrity, you need to have a clear understanding of what you can do to challenge others and how to rectify situations that may be dangerous, demeaning, upsetting or inappropriate.

For further information and guidance on implementing each of the 7 principles into your practice, see:

Skills for Care: Common Core Principles Dignity

Developed by NHS England, the 6C’s are the set of values that underpin Compassion in Practice. Compassion in Practice is a national strategy for nurses, midwives and care staff.

The 6 Cs

Compassion is the ‘C’ that explains the importance of giving care through relationships based on empathy, respect and dignity. This is further described as ‘intelligent kindness’.

To find out more about the 6 C’s see:

Skills for Care: 6 C’s in social care

These principles have been put together by the Dignity in Care Campaign. The Dignity in Care campaign is led by the National Dignity Council and works to promote dignity as a human right for all. The difference between this set of principles and those of Skills for Care and NHS England, is that these evolved following a number of focus groups with people using services to find out what dignity meant to them. 

The 10 Dignity Dos

Dignity in Care Champions are part of the Dignity in Care Campaign and there are currently over 116,000 registered Dignity Champions from all walks of life. Anyone that becomes a Champion commits to upholding the 10 Dignity ‘do’s’.

For further information, see: Dignity in Care

The opportunities that we all have every single day to treat people with dignity and respect are vast. They begin from the moment someone wakes up in the morning right through until the time they go to bed in the evening.

The following are just some examples and are by no means a comprehensive list:

Questions you can ask

Did you have a good night's sleep?

Are you ready to get up yet?

What would you like for breakfast?

Do you want me to help with that or not today?

How are you feeling today?

Is there anything worrying you?

Is it OK if I get your tablets ready now?

What do you want to do today?

Is now a good time to talk to you about something?

Are you comfortable?

Is there anything you need?

Have I done that how you like it - please tell me if I haven’t?

Things you can do

Ask about likes, dislikes and preferences as part of individual care or support planning and on a regular basis.

Be aware of how people like things to be done, and make sure that is how you do things. If someone does not seem to like the way you have done something, ask them how you can do things better, and communicate this to others.

Always seek consent before doing anything to, or on behalf of someone.

Used someone’s preferred method of communication so they can understand you and communicate their wishes effectively.

Do not use language or a tone of voice that is condascending, patronising or infantilising. For example, telling people what they already know, correcting them, interrupting them, and calling them by a term of endearment rather than using their name e.g., ‘my dear’ ‘sweetheart.’

Make sure people with reduced mobility or continence needs are comfortable.

Always carry out personal care in a private space - only do what you must do and promote independence as much as possible - only be present in the room if you must be.

Support people to see their family and friends, at home and in the community whenever they want to.

Give people privacy when they are speaking to family or friends.

Knock on doors before entering - ask is it OK if I come in?

Boost self esteem - recognise when someone has made an effort with their appearance or achieved something independently or for the first time-you look nice today-you did a great job with that.

Say thank you when the person does something for you e.g., makes a cup of tea or gives you a compliment - good manners cost nothing.

If someone looks down or upset, ask if they are OK. Ask if they would like to go somewhere private to talk about it. Ask if there is anyone else they would like to speak to/call.

Address barriers to dignity quickly - for example, if someone's clothing or bedding is soiled. Do not draw unnecessary attention to it.

If a decision needs to be made

Provide people with all the information they need, in the right way for them.

Ask if there is anyone else they would like to talk to about the decision.

Listen to worries and concerns.

Give people time to think things over.

Do not say things that suggest you think their decision may be wrong, like ‘Are you sure you want to do that?' ‘Why didn’t you go with that option?'

If we recognise that another staff member is not treating someone with dignity and respect, we must take action to stop it.

For example, talking to your colleague about the impact of their actions on the person’s dignity, reminding them how a person likes to be supported or offering to help if they are finding it difficult to maintain dignity whilst completing a task.

If this is not possible (for example the person tells you about it after the event), or your colleague does not seem to properly acknowledge or regret their behaviour, the whistle should be blown.

See: Whistleblowing

Depending on the impact of the breach of dignity and respect, a safeguarding concern may also need to be raised. For example, if the person has sustained a physical injury or been caused distress.

See: Disclosure and Raising a Concern

The Duty of Candour procedure may also be triggered. The duty of candour requires the service (and every individual employee) to be open, honest and transparent, including when things go wrong.

See: Duty of Candour

The principles of dignity and respect also extend to staff and managers. We all have a legal right to work in a place where we are treated fairly, with respect and where harassment and bullying is not tolerated.

For further guidance, see:

Anti-Harassment and Bullying

Equality, Diversity and Human Rights

Last Updated: March 21, 2022