The wearing of cameras by mental health nurses is acceptable to both patients and staff, according to researchers who found it also coincided with a fall in complaints, incidents and restraints.
The researchers noted that such cameras were already used by the police and previous studies had indicated that they had led to a reduction in complaints as well as some crimes.
“We have demonstrated that it is feasible to employ body worn cameras in an inpatient mental health setting”
They said most staff involved in their pilot were “very positive” about the benefits of using such technology, backing findings from another study of nurses in Broadmoor secure hospital.
The new trial took place at Berrywood Hospital, which is run by Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
The firm Calla supplied 12 Reveal cameras, which were worn by matrons and the security team on each of the hospital’s five psychiatric inpatient wards, following training.
The researchers said the participants chose to wear a harness camera fitting, which was selected as it could go over the uniform and was deemed “sturdy and practical”.
Extra harnesses were available to allow for washing, said the study authors, highlighting that the staff wore the camera at all times. It was switched off and then activated when an incident occurred.
“Costs could be offset by the reduction in complaints, incidents and restraints”
The study authors said there were very few technical issues with the body worn cameras, though some refinement to the harness was required to improve comfort.
Both staff and patients considered that the use of the cameras in an inpatient mental health setting was “beneficial”, said the researchers.
“Significantly, compared to the same period the year before, there was a reduction in complaints and incidents during the duration of the pilot,” they said.
The level of violent incidents and emergency restraints decreased on three out of the five wards during the trial.
In addition, there were no complaints regarding restraints during the pilot period of cameras compared to two in the same period a year earlier.
Though “encouraging”, the study authors acknowledged that a longer period of measurement and analysis of other factors, such as staffing and the severity of patients’ illness, was needed to determine whether the reductions were due to the cameras.
However, the views of mental health nurses themselves appeared to support the impact of the technology.
Of the 40 staff that used the cameras, 61% said the equipment could prevent confrontational situations because staff behaved more professionally.
In addition, 90% said the camera technology could prevent confrontational situations because patients improved their behavior if being filmed 90%.
The same percentage said the cameras provided an accurate record of events so incidents may be resolved more quickly.
Meanwhile, 59% said they may reveal when staff were not behaving professionally 59% and 73% that footage could be used for training purposes.
Only 2% said they did not make much difference and none of the respondents who used the cameras said they generated additional problems.
The study authors concluded: “By carrying out this pilot, we have demonstrated that it is feasible to employ body worn cameras in an inpatient mental health setting. Their use is acceptable to both patients and staff.
“Costs could be offset by the reduction in complaints, incidents and restraints but further research is required to support this,” they said in the journal Mental Health in Family Medicine.
The researchers noted that the cost of equipment was £7,649 and storage of footage for three months was £569. Other costs were for staff time, with 48.5 hours needed to set up and seven hours per week to maintain.