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CCTV News: Using hidden cameras to monitor care

Last year we reported on how the seemingly endless stream of shocking exposes on poor care had led the Care Quality Commission to take the unusual step of drawing up advice for relatives on using hidden cameras to monitor care of the elderly and vulnerable. As the regulatory body responsible for monitoring standards in care homes, it could be seen as something of an indictment of their track record that so many families had resorted to installing spy clocks and pinhole cameras to monitor those interacting with their loved ones. A long list of high profile cases seemed to force their hand, and yesterday saw the release of an 11 page pamphlet- “Thinking about using a hidden camera or other equipment to monitor someone’s care?“. This was potentially a brave move for the CQC, who faced some criticism from those employed in the industry who saw it as a potential invasion of privacy.

Whilst the document avoids giving explicit legal advice- and shies away from directly advising families to use hidden cameras in specific situations- it gives some very useful advice regarding privacy and consent concerns for those who have already made up their minds. Chief Inspector Andrea Sutcliffe explained: “I hope that this information helps the public to make the right decisions for them.  But what I want more than anything is for services to always provide care that meets the standards we all expect so that the public can have confidence. “
“CQC will continue to hold providers to account and take action when necessary to make sure that happens.”

Lib Dem minister for care and support also welcomed the publication: “Cameras have helped to expose terrible cruelty and neglectful care and I welcome this new advice. Decisions about using surveillance are extremely difficult – there is always a balance to be struck between protecting people and respecting their right to privacy – but this information will help families to the make the right choice for them.”

The document includes some useful tips for those considering using hidden recording devices:

  • Consent– Ensure you have the consent of the person whose care you are concerned about in order to record. In many instances they may not be able to give their own consent, in which case you must be able to justify that you are acting in their best interests.
  • Privacy– It is vital to take other resident’s privacy into account. Ensure any recording equipment is set up so it avoids shared areas, or other people’s accommodation
  • Usage– Any recordings made during the process should only be used for monitoring and checking on your loved one’s welfare, safety or dignity
  • Duration– Equipment should only be set up long enough to catch evidence of wrongdoing, and not left on an indefinite basis.
  • Security– Recordings made by hidden equipment for this purpose should be stored somewhere secure, and only accessed by people with a good reason to review them. This is especially important to note if you plan on using cloud storage services.

The document is also careful to point out that secret recording may often go against the terms and conditions of the care home, and could potentially be an infringement on employee’s rights, and this must be considered when evaluating whether such measures are warranted. They also point out however, that to date noone has been taken to court by a care provider for using a hidden recording device.


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