Principle B

Principle B letterNurses and nursing staff take responsibility for the care they provide and answer for their own judgments and actions – they carry out these actions in a way that is agreed with their patients, and the families and carers of their patients, and in a way that meets the requirements of their professional bodies and the law.


Discover more

Principle B focuses on ethical integrity, legal integrity, accountability and responsibility.

You may find the following commentary article about Principle B a useful starting point for exploring this Principle. It is published by the Nursing Standard as part of an introductory series on the Principles of Nursing Practice:
Scrivener R et al (2011) Accountability and responsibility: Principle of Nursing Practice B. Nursing Standard 25(29) 23 March pp.35-36 (PDF 554KB) [see how to access PDF files].

Other useful resources are:

A selection of RCN resources which are particularly relevant to Principle B

The following resources and services produced by the RCN provide guidance and support to people wishing to use the Principles for quality improvement purposes or their own continuing professional development.  

To access some of the Learning Zone content you will be asked to enter your RCN membership number. If you require assistance with entering the Learning Zone, or would like further information on becoming a member of the RCN please contact RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100.

Accountability and delegation: 'Health care teams include a range of registered professionals, health care assistants (HCAs), assistant practitioners (APs) and students. It is vital that each member of the team is clear about their level of accountability and that the registered staff are confident when delegating tasks to their colleagues.' This film shows health care assistants discussing issues around accountability and delegation with commentary from experts from the RCN. The scenarios are relevant to all members of the team and can help in supporting effective team work in relation to appropriate delegation. There is an accompanying resource list and a checklist for both nurses who delegate and HCAs accepting delegation.

Clinical governance: staff focus: one of the themes in the clinical governance online resource this signposts key policies, agencies, guidance and tools, including resources on competences, role development and redesign, training and education. 

Defining nursing (PDF 1.03MB) (2003): this publication provides the RCN’s definition of nursing. One of the defining characteristics of nursing is the acceptance of personal accountability for decisions and actions. "Nursing values are expressed in written codes of ethics, and supported by a system of professional regulation" (p.3).

Health care assistants (HCAs): Accountability, delegation and professional issues: a series of pages on different aspects of accountability and delegation within the section of the RCN website which provides information and support  to RCN members who are health care assistants (HCAs) and assistant practitioners (APs).

Legal help: the RCN provides legal advice and, in appropriate circumstances, representation on any matter of law that occurs in the course of employment.

Legal responsibility and accountability: this article by Chris Cox, Director of Legal Services at the RCN looks at risk management and accountability issues for nurses, especially those undertaking extending roles. You can access the full article via the RCN e-library: Go to: e-journals in the RCN e-library.
Cox, C (2010) Legal responsibility and accountability. Nursing Management. June 2010, vol. 17 (3) pp.18-20.

Principles to inform decision making: what do I need to know? (PDF 282KB) (2008): this publication outlines the four main principles - quality, equality, accountability and partnership - which the RCN believes are fundamental to the evolving role of nurses and nursing care in a modern health and social care system.

For further RCN publications see Publications

RCN library and heritage services e-library: provides a range of resources that RCN members can access for further information. These include full-text journals, databases, e-books and Fast searches which are up-to-date searches on frequently asked selected topics.