Skip navigation

General enquiries: 03456 009 009

Text size

Help tools


Site search


Global navigation

Professional abuse

Please scroll down the page or use the content list to jump to information within this page.

  1. About professional abuse
  2. What to do if you suspect professional abuse
  3. Making a complaint about a health professional
  4. Making a complaint about the NHS
  5. Making a complaint about social care
  6. Making a complaint about a care home or care home worker
  7. Definition of professional abuse

1. About professional abuse

Professional abuse happens when a professional does any of the following:

  • Takes advantage of their client or patient's trust.
  • Exploits their vulnerability.
  • Does not act in their best interests.
  • Fails to keep professional boundaries.

Abuse may be:

  • Sexual.
  • Financial.
  • Psychological/emotional.
  • Physical/neglectful.
  • Discriminatory.

Professional abuse always involves:

  • Betrayal of trust.
  • Exploitation of vulnerability.
  • Violation of professional boundaries.

The professional may be:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Counsellors
  • Psychotherapists
  • Social care workers
  • Care home workers
  • Community care workers
  • Hypnotherapists
  • Complementary therapists

2. What to do if you suspect professional abuse:

Return to top

Serious reports of abuse:

Other reports of professional abuse:

  • If person being abused is a vulnerable adult, please contact Safeguarding Adults via our Contact Centre on 0300 200 1005 and help us stop abuse!

3. Making a complaint about a health professional

  • For complaints about doctors, you can find advice about the complaints procedure on the Making a complaint page on the General Medical Council web site.
  • If it is a complaint about a GP, dentist, pharmacist or optician, you will need to contact the practice to find out about their complaints procedure.
  • Or you can contact the Surrey Primary Care Trust (PCT) Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS), for confidential support, advice and information about any NHS services provided by Surrey PCT, such as District Nursing, Health Visiting, Community Hospitals, Community Dentistry.
  • More advice on how to make a complaint about Surrey PCT Services is available on the Complaints page on the Surrey PCT web site
  • If it is a complaint about a hospital or hospital staff, please use the NHS choices directory to find the hospital web site that will include a link to the hospital's Patient Advice Liaison Service who will be able to help you with any concerns.
Return to top

4. Making a complaint about the NHS

5. Making a complaint about social care

6. Making a complaint about a care home or care home worker

  • For incidents involving individual members of staff in care homes, please report the matter immediately to the matron or supervisor of the care home, so that they can put things right
  • To report concerns about a matron or supervisor of a care home, please contact the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI)
  • Otherwise, contact Safeguarding Adults via our Contact Centre on 0300 200 1005 and help us stop abuse
  • For more information about abuse in a care home, nursing home, acute hospital or an in-patient setting, please see the page about institutional abuse

7. Definition of professional abuse

According to Surrey Safeguarding Adults - Multi Agency Procedures 2008.

Section A.4.7 Professional abuse

Professional abuse is the misuse of therapeutic power and abuse of trust by professionals, the failure of professionals to act on suspected abuse/crimes, poor care practice or neglect in services, resource shortfalls or service pressures that lead to service failure and culpability as a result of poor management systems/structures.

Examples of behaviour: entering into a sexual relationship with a patient/client, failure to refer disclosure of abuse, poor, ill-informed or outmoded care practice, failure to support vulnerable adult to access health care/treatment, denying vulnerable adults access to professional support and services such as advocacy, service design where groups of users living together are incompatible, punitive responses to challenging behaviours, failure to whistle-blow on issues when internal procedures to highlight issues are exhausted.

For more information about procedures to safeguard vulnerable adults in Surrey, please see: Surrey Safeguarding Adults - Multi Agency Procedures 2008 and the Stop Abuse Now booklet on the Surrey Learning Disability Partnership Board web site.


Page information

  • Last updated: 12/01/2008
  • Information owner: Sally Benham