Should CCTV be used in care homes?

The issue of secret filming in care homes made front-page headlines again this week in more than  one of the major national newspapers.

The report revealed that families who have concerns about how their relatives are being treated will be advised on how to film them – by the industry watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.

This is a very big, very complicated and naturally very sensitive issue.

There have been some appalling revelations over the last few years of severe and grotesque mistreatment in care homes as well as hospitals and in peoples’ own homes which have, rightly or wrongly, earned the health and care industry a pretty poor reputation in the public’s eye.

It’s understandable, therefore, that relatives harbour increasingly grave concerns about the treatment of their loved ones in care homes. They want – and should expect – peace of mind that the very least their relative is receiving is professional care from staff in a safe and secure environment.

Sadly, as we all know, this has not always been the case and on the face of it using covert filming as a deterrent to staff – or the ability to catch the few bad apples – would seem to be a solution.

However, there are some big questions to answer here.

For starters, you have to ask where the issues of privacy and dignity lie in all of this. This almost encroaches on civil liberties territory, a topic which has come to the fore in wider society over the last few years. Many care home residents are nearing the end of their lives – is being secretly filmed the way they would like to see out their days?

Put yourself in their position. Would you want to be filmed being washed and clothed and receiving the most personal care without giving your permission first (bearing in mind it’s not always possible to obtain this permission)?

Clearly many wouldn’t be aware of a camera in their room, but that still has to be an infringement on their privacy.

This leads us to the crucial question of who gives permission for the filming. The resident might not have the capacity to grant permission, and what happens where no family member has the appropriate Lasting Power of Attorney?

And who watches, or is able to monitor, the footage? Then decisions have to made regarding the circumstances it would be acceptable, not to mention how the filmed material would be stored. It’s a sad fact of life that there are some mentally unwell people out there who might want to watch the footage for inappropriate purposes.

So while CCTV most certainly has its very powerful benefits as a protective tool – both for residents and indeed staff – it’s not such a clear cut solution.

Should care providers install CCTV in bedrooms and day rooms in case relatives want to watch footage?

Who should monitor covert surveillance if the care provider is unaware of the cameras? Who ensures the privacy and dignity of the resident in these situations? Who keeps the film?

The truth is, we are torn at The Uplands.

But we would certainly very much welcome discussion and a debate over the issue.

Hopefully we will reach a solution which results in best practice whilst granting residents their ultimate right in life: privacy and tender loving care provided at all times.