A survey of care home staff has found the majority would support the use of controversial surveillance cameras to help stamp out abuse and bad practice.
However, the same poll by care home provider HC-One, revealed more than half of residents were against the idea.
The company, which is the third largest care home provider in the UK, gathered the views of 7,330 members of staff, more than 3,300 relatives and just over 1,535 residents.
“The potential implementation of an opt-in, visible camera scheme is a very serious issue and one for the whole sector to debate”
It found relatives of frail and elderly occupants were in strongly favour of visible cameras, with 87% saying they would like one in their loved one’s room.
However, just 47% of residents wanted the same, citing privacy as a key concern.
Meanwhile, 63% of staff said they were in favour, yet more than a third – 37% – were not.
In its report on the survey, HC-One described the level of support from staff as “the most surprising result”.
It suggested cameras could also provide protection for nurses and care workers, offering a “clear-cut response to any allegations of abuse or neglect”.
“Carers who were dedicated to providing kind, compassionate care would be able to clear their name immediately if any allegations were raised about their conduct,” said HC-One’s report on the survey.
Debate on the use of CCTV to safeguard the vulnerable follows recent high profile scandals involving the mistreatment of elderly and disabled care home residents, including at Winterbourne View private hospital and Ash Court Care Centre.
Earlier this month, the Care Quality Commission announced it intended to publish information for both providers and the public on the use of cameras “both secretly and openly”.
HC-One, which runs more than 220 care homes, said its survey was the first stage of work to explore the viability of installing camera systems.
The provider said it was “acutely aware” families were already using covert cameras to monitor care – with or without their loved ones’ consent.
However, it said it was only looking at “opt in” systems, where residents and relatives would need to agree to cameras being present.
The research highlighted a number of issues including fears about who would have access to the footage, how secure it would be and who would pay for cameras, with one possible option involving families themselves paying for a “premium add-on service”.
“We would have reservations about more widespread use of CCTV in health settings where patients’ privacy is critical”
Seventy-four per cent of people who took part in the survey said the impact on residents’ privacy was a key concern while 37% said staff privacy was also an issue.
Some said cameras risked de-motivating staff because they felt they were not trusted, while others feared the creation of a “Big Brother” culture.
Other key concerns included the fear cameras could be used to monitor the welfare of residents instead of carrying out checks in person, and potentially lead to reduction in staff numbers.
Respondents also raised the possibility they could lead to a two-tier system where staff paid more attention to residents with cameras in their rooms.
HC-One, which is now inviting others in the health and social care sector to share their views, said it was clear cameras should only be used on top of standard safeguarding measures and not to replace them.
Key questions included who should decide about the use of cameras if a resident lacked the capacity.
When it came to paying for the cost of cameras, the report suggested many care home providers would struggle to raise the cash without increasing fees.
Meanwhile, the money could be better spent on staff pay, training and improving facilities.
“The potential implementation of an opt-in, visible camera scheme is a very serious issue and one for the whole sector to debate,” said HC-One chair Dr Chai Patel.
The Royal College of Nursing said it had reservations about the use of CCTV.
“CCTV has been trialled in some mental health units where it was used to protect both patients and staff, but the Information Commissioner has stressed that in areas of privacy CCTV should only be used in exceptional circumstances, said RCN England director Tom Sandford.
“We would have reservations about more widespread use of CCTV in health settings where patients’ privacy is critical,” he said.
“There would be many questions to ask regarding the ethics, as well as the cost-effectiveness, of such a scheme,” he added.