Proposed Protect Duty: how might it impact the health and social care sector?

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Proposed Protect Duty: how might it impact the health and social care sector?

Published 30 noviembre 2022

This month marks the first anniversary of the Liverpool Women's Hospital attack, which killed the suspected bomber and injured the driver of the taxi in which he was travelling. 

The Queen’s Speech 2022 outlined a proposed Protect Duty Bill with the aim of keeping people safe by introducing new security requirements for certain public locations and venues to ensure preparedness for and protection from terrorist attacks.

The essential concept of the Protect Duty is that those responsible for “publicly accessible locations” should take appropriate and proportionate measures to protect the public from terrorist attacks at these locations. 

A publicly accessible location is defined as:

  • any place to which the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission.
  • for clarity, public places/venues are permanent buildings or temporary event locations where there is a defined boundary and open access to the public.
  • public spaces are open public locations which usually have no clear boundaries or well-defined entrances / exit points (e.g. busy thoroughfares and parks).

This article considers the potential implications that may arise from the duty for those operating in the health and social care sector. We will update further when the text of the bill is published.

Which venues will the duty apply to and who will be obligated?

It is anticipated that the duty will apply to:

  • Owners and/or operators of “public venues” that have a capacity of 100 persons or more. This would likely include hospitals,  GP surgeries, drop-in centres, some social care and hospice settings as well as open spaces such as car parks and vaccination centres (including drive-in centres).
  • Large organisations, (i.e. those employing 250 staff or more) that operate at “publicly accessible locations”, this would likely include NHS trusts/foundation trusts, independent healthcare providers and some not-for-profit providers of health and social care services.
  • Those who are responsible for, or operate at, “public spaces”, which may include spaces operated by not-for-profit health and social care providers such as memorial parks or play areas or thoroughfares on larger campuses.

The Government has indicated that smaller organisations, particularly those staffed by volunteers, may be exempt from some or all of the obligations, which would be welcome news for smaller not-for-profit organisations who will already be complying with general safeguarding requirements.

What will the duty require?

The duty is likely to require that obligated parties be required to assess the risks posed from terrorist attacks and put in place reasonably practicable mitigation measures, which could include:

  • Having security plans and procedures to react and respond to different threats which are understood by all staff and regularly exercised;
  • Clear roles and responsibilities, particularly amongst event organisers, and those at senior level within venues and organisations;
  • Having simple and freely available staff training and awareness courses;
  • Adopting security measures (such as door locks, roller shutters) for crime prevention and anti-social behaviour, which may also be used in response to other security threats; and
  • Liaison with the police or other resource (e.g. a security consultant).

Of course, what constitutes “reasonably practicable” will vary between organisations depending on their size and resources.  Some organisations will be able to augment their current systems to take into account this new duty, whereas others may require new systems. 

What would be the consequences of not complying with the duty?

The Government has indicated that an inspectorate will be created to oversee the effectiveness of the duty, including providing education and advice, and undertaking inspections.  The inspectorate will likely also have the power to take enforcement action (in the form of civil penalties) in the event of non-compliance. 

Next steps

Although it is expected that the legislation to establish the Protect Duty will be introduced into Parliament during the first half of 2023, there is already guidance available.  For example, ProtectUK is a new central hub developed by the Counter Terrorism Alliance that provides guidance, information and learning on counter-terrorism and security matters. 

Many of the concepts discussed above will be familiar to those who have managed health and safety at work (such as risk assessment, reasonably practicable mitigation measures, staff training and access to competent advice), as well as safeguarding requirements and disaster planning.  It is to be hoped that the finalised Protect Duty legislation will allow for health and social care organisations to manage these in a consistent manner. 


Rob Biddlecombe

Rob Biddlecombe


+44 (0) 121 698 5327

Anne-Marie Gregory

Anne-Marie Gregory


+44 (0) 117 918 2324

Stan Campbell

Stan Campbell


+44 (0) 117 918 2179

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