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CQC to consult on covert surveillance cameras in care homes

Article By: Sue Learner, News Editor

The Care Quality Commission has told it is to consult on introducing CCTV into care homes.

In recent years, a number of high-profile abuse cases such as that at Winterbourne View care home, have been exposed by secret filming.

An increasing number of family members have taken covert footage because they say they are not being listened to over fears their relatives are being abused and maltreated.

This has resulted in TV programmes such as Panorama highlighting the issue.

In order to address concerns over abuse and maltreatment in care homes, the CQC is putting out a document in October setting out its thoughts on the regulation of social care. The public consultation will be next Spring. One of the proposals it will be consulting on is the introduction of covert surveillance cameras into care homes.

The CQC spokesman said: “When we produce the consultation of social care regulation, we may look at the issue of introducing cameras and covert surveillance into care homes.

“We realise that we need to consider anything that may help to protect people and reveal cases of poor care.

“We will be consulting very widely on this exploring the practicalities of it. But it is not something that can’t be done.”

The issue of using CCTV in care homes raises questions of capacity, consent and privacy.

The CQC spokesman said: “There is obviously an issue if someone is receiving care and if they have dementia they may not have the capacity to give the consent to be filmed. It is a matter of thinking it all through.

“But it is not a plan as yet, it is something we are thinking about and will be consulting on.

“We will be consulting on a whole range of measures to protect people. Nothing will be happening immediately.”

Professor Martin Johnson, Professor of Nursing at the University of Salford, is “broadly sympathetic to the use of such methods to prevent serious harms”.

He said: “I think that the important evidence that video recording brings to bear on major crimes is irrefutable. And there is no doubt in my mind that physical, verbal and sexual abuse of patients is a major crime.

“I think first steps should be the installation, on a measured basis, of video cameras in areas where patients might be ‘out of sight’, but of course we need to be sensitive to the need for privacy, which is little catered for as it is.”

He added: “I think that staff and patients alike would benefit from the feedback that some of these recordings might provide, but patient groups would need to be heavily involved in the plans and consultation.

“Staff are naturally insulted to imagine that they might be under the suspicion that video recorders seem to imply (we would too), but we do become accustomed to such things in public places, such as lifts, bus stations, and trains.

“Many cases of abuse have only come to light through journalists using covert video.

“It’s sad, but I am happy to see trials of any means of reducing abuse which seems rife in many settings, and many patients and residents and their families might quite like the reassurance. Nurses might even benefit as much abuse is in the other direction, violence against health care staff is a massive problem.”

Des Kelly, executive director of the National Care Forum, which represents care home providers, believes the fact families feel it is necessary to install secret camera does raise some important issues.

Des Kelly, chief executive of National Care Forum

However he said: “The issue of surveillance is one which has been in the news quite a bit recently with families taking the decision that installing hidden cameras in care homes and peoples own homes is the only way to ensure that they are adequately protected.

“The sector needs to have the discussion about the use of covert surveillance.

“Clearly safeguarding people considered vulnerable is vital and a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude towards abuse is an important message for care providers to convey.

“It is difficult to see how a policy to use covert surveillance would be justified unless there were strong suspicions or evidence.

“Professional and thorough recruitment systems, clear policies and procedures reinforcing person-centred approaches, induction, on-going training opportunities, support and regular supervision, ought to be the best means of ensuring staff deliver quality care and support.

“The NCF looks forward to engaging with this CQC consultation.”

Over recent years, an increasing number of families have taken secret footage concerned over the standards of care their relatives are receiving.

In response to families feeling they have to take matters into their own hands, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has now agreed to view all footage that families present to them.

A spokesman for the CQC said: “We will look at footage that is offered to us by families. Up to this point it has been patchy but we will agree to look at everything that is sent to us. If a family offers us footage we will watch it.”

Martin Green, chief executive at English Community Care Association, said: “I am comfortable with the CQC saying they would look at family footage. However, there is an issue about the dignity and privacy of the person and whether or not they have given permission for families to film covertly.

“This is also an issue for people who have dementia where the mental capacity act, should apply and nobody should make decisions on behalf of a person unless it is in their best interests and unless they have assessed whether the person has capacity to make the decision for themselves.”

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