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CQC considers hidden cameras proposal


The health and social care watchdog in England is considering using hidden cameras to help carry out inspections of care homes.

The Care Quality Commission unveiled the proposal as one of a number of changes to the way it monitors care providers.

The new chief inspector of adult social care has outlined her priorities in a document published ahead of a public consultation next spring.

Andrea Sutcliffe - one of three chief inspectors appointed by the CQC - said the organisation would hold discussions over “the potential use of hidden surveillance”.

The document, A Fresh Start for the Regulation and Inspection of Adult Social Care, states: “We would… like to have an open conversation with people about the use of mystery shoppers and hidden cameras, and whether they would contribute to promoting a culture of safety and quality, while respecting people’s rights to privacy and dignity.

“Such a conversation should cover the use of these techniques by the public, providers, or CQC.”

Davina Ludlow, director of care home directory, warned about the possible impact on care users and staff.

“Whilst safeguarding is vital, so too is dignity and privacy,” she said.

“We urge full and meaningful consultation before digital spies infiltrate the care sector. Not only will covert surveillance impact on residents’ freedom, it may also have a knock-on effect on the motivation of staff.

“We need to train, support and inspire the next generation of carers, not create a big brother culture where people are afraid to do this vital job.”

Other proposals include awarding ratings to every care home and adult social care service by March 2016 to help people make informed decisions about their care.

Ms Sutcliffe, who started in her job last week, also wants to recruit an army of ordinary people with personal experience of the care system to help carry out inspections.

She said: “This is a fresh start for how care homes, home care, and other adult social care services are inspected and regulated across the country. I will be leading CQC’s new approach by making more use of people’s views and by using expert inspection teams involving people who have personal experience of care.

“We will always be on the side of the people who use care services. For every care service we look at, I want us to ask: ‘Is this good enough for my mum?’. If it is, this should be celebrated. If not, then as the regulator we will do something about it.

“Adult social care is the largest and fastest growing sector that CQC regulates and so it is imperative that we get it right.”

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We welcome these plans to overhaul adult social care inspections at a time when public confidence in the care sector is at an all time low.”



Readers' comments (31)

  • I would ask Ms Sutcliffe if she would consider it good enough for her mum to be under continuing surveillance. I am appalled that this could even be considered - the residents in care homes deserve the same right to privacy as all others. There must be better ways to prevent/uncover abuse.

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  • How much lower can the CQC stoop? “We would… like to have an open conversation with people about the use of mystery shoppers and hidden cameras, and whether they would contribute to promoting a culture of safety and quality, while respecting people’s rights to privacy and dignity. Can I tell you now. THEY WON'T! They'll do the exact opposite and promote a culture of fear where staff feel they cannot trust their instincts in case a spy or a camera misinterprets their actions. Our institutions are in crisis and the CQC, Monitor, Ofsted etc just add to their problems. This is worth a read.

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  • is this, and the financial outlay they would require, the answer to poor management, inadequate training, overworked and highly stressed staff paid insufficient salaries and often expected to care for others in inadequate and poorly resourced facilities to run professional establishments responsible for providing care for vulnerable and valued members of our society?

    Perhaps these cameras should be tested on the home owners and managers first! who else would wish to work in such an atmosphere of mistrust?

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  • further to my comment above, it also seems to affirm beliefs that the health and social authorities and the CQC and those running the homes are incapable of doing their own jobs properly and thus placing the onus on the front line workers instead of leading and supporting them as they should.

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  • Brilliant! Why hide them?? I fully endorse every opportunity to show how good our practice is, and will easily resolve any malicious or unfounded allegations about staff, and provide hard facts for investigations etc. I cannot think of one reason why the whole of the care profession would not be absolutely delighted. Stick them in hospitals as well. If i were a patient I would be glad of that level of protection. Predictable whining debate going on ... hope you all contribute to the formal consultation!!

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  • Tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 15-Oct-2013 5:11 pm

    I agree with you and am not against cameras being considered.

    Childrens nurseries now have CCTV so that parents can feel reassured that their children are in safe hands and rightly so.

    There are a lot of dedicated hardworking staff working in private care homes which are understaffed and where profit comes before adequate staffing levels. They are worked like donkeys and paid minimum wages with minimal sick leave and probably the most basic terms and conditions.

    I spoke with a dedicated, caring, hard working staff nurse the other day in one of these homes. She told me she is the only nurse in charge of 40 residents, most of them requiring all needs met, some with complex needs & challenging behaviours. There are 20 residents on each ward and she said she has 3.5 staff per ward. She is the .5 member of staff as she is the only qualified covering both wards. This isn't because someone has gone off sick, this is the norm in this private care home. A camera would prove how over stretched she and the staff are but also prove how dedicated she is to her residents and the need for extra staffing. She has nothing to fear from a camera observing her.

    When I recommended to the home manager they increase their staffing levels she replied 'recommend away, it ain't gonna happen'. Perhaps they put on extra staff when they know they have a CQC visit.

    Whilst the CQC et al continue to have problems with ensuring adequate inspection the residents are stuck in these care homes without a voice.
    Home staff are too frightened to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

    There is no need for any residents dignity to be compromised. It is already probably being compromised no doubt on occasions due to totally inadequate staffing levels. The only way some of these private home business managers are going to improve standards is because there is proof that they are causing the problem by not providing the required staffing.

    I have been involved with another care home under investigation for the past 5 months because of the excessive amount of adult protection alerts that have been raised. They eventually had their staffing levels increased.

    If the CQC et al cannot provide the level of inspection required to ensure quality and dignity needs are met we can't just leave the matter as it is without coming up with alternative solutions.

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  • I don't suppose many would welcome cameras or even Smart Meters in their own home with some stranger watching over them to survey that they are obeying all the rules, and they could even be used to survey peoples' life styles to ensure they are not abusing their nutritional, physical and mental health and then claiming free care at the expense of tax payers on the NHS!

    even thinking such an idea as this, in what has become effectively the home of many of the elderly, is a disgrace. it needs more staff and better training and not perpetually bringing in new-fangled ideas to cover over your mistakes. look at speed cameras, they were quickly dropped by the government as soon as austerity measures came into force.
    time to get your whole act of healthcare together, the elderly have paid into the system and looked after others much of their lives and now it is their turn to be looked after in a caring, respectful and dignified manner they deserve!
    They are still valued members of the community as much as everybody else and don't you forget it!

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  • What is so glaring and incredibly disappointing is the complete lack of ANY consideration or mention for the rights of healthcare workers!! The cameras wouldn't stop at care homes.

    I am a good, honest and hardworking nurse in an acute setting. Have been for three decades. I have had years of verbal abuse, been spat at, and been punched and kicked by patients and their relatives. Nothing effective has ever been done to either prevent these things happening to healthcare workers or impose sanctions on those who offend.

    If care is poor anywhere, tackle the reasons. (see the excellent comment from Anonymous | 15-Oct-2013 2:25 pm for some of those).

    Don't spy on people going about their lawful business.

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  • Fire Andrea Sutcliffe and her mates for even suggesting that this despicable idea as an option.

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  • The legal starting point is that covert and secret monitoring and surveillance will amount to an unlawful infringement of a worker’s human rights in the workplace. Under the Human Rights Act 1998, individuals have the right to private life. The office of the Information Commissioner recommends that covert monitoring or surveillance should only happen in extreme cases, for clearly targeted purposes, and only for a limited period.
    Relevant appeal court cases on this subject indicate that secret monitoring and surveillance will only be lawful if it is “proportionate”. In order to be proportionate, an employer will need to be able to show that the interference with the individual’s rights was proportionate in all the circumstance. This means that limited secret monitoring may be appropriate if it is clearly and carefully targeted, and is only used for the period necessary to establish if the activity of concerns is actually happening, and to establish when and how the activity of concern is happening. Therefore, if, for example, the employer suspects an individual of stealing from his business, the relevant secret monitoring will only be proportionate if it focuses on the particular suspect, in the location of the suspected thefts, and for such period as is necessary to prove or disprove the suspicions. If a particular employee or group of employees is the subject of suspicion the monitoring should not cover other employees.

    Ms. Sutcliffe et al, you CANNOT ride roughshod over the rights of patients or employees. Stop wasting time on this nonsense. You will only end up in court. Turn your attention to the underlying causes of poor care. It isn't rocket science.

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