Risk assessments in health and social care, explained (with examples)

In this article, we’ll explain what a risk assessment in health and social care is, why risk assessments are important, and the steps involved

Plus, we’ll share some risk assessment examples with you, so you feel confident when you need to conduct a risk assessment.

Risk assessments in health and social care, explained (with examples)

Table of Contents

What to know before you start a risk assessment

Whether you support people in a care home or provide home care, at some point you’ll need to conduct a risk assessment in health and social care.

If you’ve never done this before, the thought of being involved in risk management might feel daunting.

Alternatively, you may be experienced in risk management in health and social care, but you’re looking for home care risk assessment examples for new staff members, or want ways to simplify and speed up your current processes.

It’s important to get it right. CQC will look at how safe a service is, as part of the Single Assessment Framework. And, more importantly, good risk management and digital social care record keeping are crucial to delivering effective and high-quality care.

Fortunately, there are lots of tools and resources out there to help, enabling you to provide safe and person-centred care for your service users. Care management software, for example, can help you to provide a safe and efficient care service.

Dementia risk assessment example
An example of a dementia risk assessment. Get PASS to unlock the full template.

What is a risk assessment in health and social care?

We all conduct risk assessments every day. For example, if you drive a car, you’ll carry out multiple risk assessments without even thinking about it on your journey – checking your mirrors before you reverse, looking both ways before you pull out at a junction, and hundreds of other little informal assessments.

Any time you identify a risk and decide what action to take, you’re conducting a risk assessment.

However, a risk assessment in health and social care is more involved.

It’s part of the planning and risk management process, and is a legal obligation. CQC may take action against care providers who do not assess risks and take appropriate action.

At a glance:

A risk assessment in home care or another social care setting is intended to minimise risk for the service user, while still helping them maintain as much independence as possible.

The risk assessment should identify possible risks, evaluate the danger that they pose, and explain how to mitigate these issues.

A person-centred care plan should enable clients to carry out tasks in a safe way, where possible, rather than stopping them from doing things. A risk assessment should identify the risk, and plan strategies to reduce the danger.

As a home care risk assessment example, think about a service user who is at risk of falls. 

Despite the risk, they should be encouraged to continue activities that they enjoy, such as walking or gardening. The risk of falls could be reduced by encouraging them to remember a walking stick, or going on walks with a friend or carer.

A risk assessment should be carried out as part of the care planning process, and updated when necessary.

Falls risk assessment example
An example of a falls risk assessment. Get PASS to unlock the full template.

Why are risk assessments important in health and social care?

Risk assessments are important in any industry. Assessing the risks and taking action to mitigate potential dangers keeps clients, staff members and visitors safe.

However, as care professionals, you know that risk assessments in health and social care are especially crucial. You have a particular responsibility towards your service users.

The importance of digital documentation:

There’s no standardised template across the industry for risk assessments, but, as with many aspects of care planning and incident reporting, it’s important to make sure that they’re documented digitally.

Fortunately, PASS provides digital risk assessment documentation. You can use our Document Builder to record risk assessments.

It’s not always possible to eradicate all risk, but having digital care plans and records can also cover the organisation in the event of an incident. CQC has taken action against care providers for failing to carry out risk assessments and take measures to mitigate dangers.

Your customers put their trust in you. Many of your service users may have mobility issues, health concerns, learning difficulties or memory problems. 

There are a variety of reasons that they may not always be able to mitigate risks on their own – and sometimes their circumstances put them at more risk. For example, someone with cognitive impairments may not be aware of the danger of an open window or boiling water.

A pain assessment, meanwhile, may help carers identify the signs and symptoms of pain in non-verbal children and adults.

Because of this, you need to carry out thorough, person-centred risk assessments.

Pain risk assessment example
An example of a pain risk assessment. Get PASS to unlock the full template.

However, a risk assessment in home care or residential care isn’t just there to protect the client. It can also protect staff members – and the organisation as a whole.

Providing care can be a very physically challenging job, and many care workers have experienced injuries as a result of their work. 

A risk assessment can flag up potential areas of concern, such as a client who needs two carers to help them move, reducing the risk of one person carrying too much weight and being injured.

How to carry out a risk assessment

A person-centred risk assessment should be carried out collaboratively. You should include the service user, any relevant family members, social workers and healthcare professionals if necessary, and key members of the care team.

The initial risk assessments should be conducted during the care planning process. You should take into account the client’s history, health conditions (both physical and mental), medication and potential side effects, care needs and mobility issues.

Most importantly, you should talk to the client about their wishes and the outcomes they want to achieve.

 For example, if you’re conducting a falls risk assessment, you may have ideas on how to mitigate risks – but if your client enjoys dancing, you should take this into account as well.

Rather than avoiding all risk, you should work with your client to manage the risk and focus on their mental well-being as well as just their physical health and safety.

The client should be involved at all times, and each step should be documented. There are a few steps to carrying out a risk assessment in health and social care:

1) Identify the potential risks

This may include looking at factors such as their environment, usual daily activities, and health conditions.

risk assessment in home care
Carers may need to carry out a risk assessment of the care receiver's home

2) Look at the likelihood of each risk

How likely is it that the situation will happen? This may change over time, especially if the service user becomes more frail.

3) Look at the danger of each risk

If the risk happens, how much harm is it likely to cause?

4) Develop a plan with actions in place to mitigate the risks

This may involve taking immediate action, such as arranging for assistive devices or arranging care visits at particular times of day.

5) Monitor the plan, and make changes when necessary

If the client’s circumstances change, the risk assessment may need to be reviewed – for example, after a hospitalisation, new diagnosis or symptoms, or change of environment.

Different types of risk assessment

Most providers carry out several different types of risk assessment, depending on how they operate and the client’s individual circumstances.

Some home care or care home risk assessment examples could include:

  • Medication risk assessments
  • Falls risk assessments
  • Infection control assessments
  • Moving and handling risk assessments

Medication risk assessment

Many clients need support with their medication. Some service users may need a reminder to take a tablet every day, whereas others may need carers to administer medication in various forms.

A medication risk assessment will look at the risks of medication for that client, including errors, reactions, or other issues. The assessment will ask what is the likelihood of issues and what is the potential danger? Are there any actions you could take to mitigate the risk? For example, you could consider care management software to log when medication has been given, or regular medication training for staff.

Medication risk assessment example
An example of a medication risk assessment. Get PASS to unlock the full template.

Falls risk assessment

Whether you’re conducting a home care risk assessment or one in a residential setting, your clients are likely to be at risk of falls. There may be an increased risk for some service users, depending on their health conditions and environment.

A falls risk assessment will look at the environment and potential changes – are there any trip hazards that can easily be moved? Would the service user benefit from grab rails, rising chairs, or other assistive devices? If the risk of falls remains high and the person is often alone, do they need more care visits, or a personal alarm?

Falls risk assessment example
An example of a falls risk assessment. Get PASS to unlock the full template.

Infection control risk assessment

Over the last few years, most care providers have had a lot of experience with infection control risk assessments. There will always be some inherent infection risk in providing personal care, but care workers can mitigate the risk by using fresh PPE for every client or task, and regular handwashing.

If a client has an infectious disease, or there is an outbreak of infection in your service, you may need to update your risk assessment and take more precautions.

Moving and handling risk assessment

If your client needs help moving around their home, a moving and handling risk assessment can help to keep both the client and carer or carers safe. This may detail how many care workers are needed for each task, and what equipment, if any, is needed.

Moving and handling risk assessment example
An example of a moving and handling risk assessment. Get PASS to unlock the full template.

Other considerations and hazards in health and social care

Depending on your clients’ individual circumstances, additional hazards could involve:

  • Equipment, especially hoists or other assistive devices
  • Smoking and potential fire risks
  • Behaviour concerns, including violent behaviour or refusal to accept care
  • Environmental concerns, including hoarding or excessive clutter, as well as access to potential dangers such as ovens or boiling water

These hazards may change on a regular basis.

As part of risk management in health and social care, you may also need to carry out risk assessments for staff members, particularly if they are pregnant, have an injury or are dealing with a health condition.

Use PASS care management software for all your risk assessment needs

With 100+ care planning and risk assessments templates, PASS is the perfect digital social care solution for managing risk. Book a free, no-obligation tour with our solution experts today to learn more.

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Picture of Jessica Slattery, Digital Social Care Expert @ PASS

Jessica Slattery, Digital Social Care Expert @ PASS

Jess and her team have worked with more than 1,200 social care businesses, providing expert advice on Digital Social Care Record (DSCR) systems, resulting in thousands of hours saved, improved CQC ratings, and better quality of care for the people they care about.

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