Expert advice

Legal advice: What are the implications for nurses who provide first aid outside of the work environment?

Although the UK does not have a Good Samaritan law requiring passers-by to provide first aid, nurses have a professional and ethical duty to give help within their level of competence

Although the UK does not have a Good Samaritan law requiring passers-by to provide first aid, nurses have a professional and ethical duty to give help within their level of competence


Picture: Alamy

Providing first aid outside of your work situation can be seen as a Good Samaritan act. But unlike some other countries, including Finland and Germany, the UK does not have a Good Samaritan law that requires someone to come to the aid of another, unless there is a pre-existing duty or they created the situation.

This means that a nurse has no legal duty to provide first aid to a member of the public outside the work situation and environment.

However, nurses do have a professional and ethical duty to assist – your registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council requires you to give help within the confines of your competence.

Inappropriate care

One issue for those providing Good Samaritan acts is the possibility of being sued for negligence for providing inappropriate care.

There have been no cases to date of anyone successfully bringing a claim against a Good Samaritan, and there is legal protection for those who perform such acts in England and Wales under the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015.

When working outside of your normal work environment you will not have the usual resources available to you, or other members of your team to assist you.

Stay within your level of expertise

Before acting, you therefore need to make an assessment of the situation, including whether there is any danger to yourself or others, decide if you are the best person to assist and what that assistance should be.

It may be that the best help you can provide is to contact the emergency services and monitor the injured person until they arrive. Whatever you decide to do, remember to always stay within your level of expertise and training.

Your employer-provided indemnity is unlikely to cover you in such situations, but if you have additional indemnity you may be covered so it is advisable to check what your indemnity provider will cover you for. Although it is unlikely you will need it, it is better to know in advance.


Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University

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