The Care Quality Commission has published information to help people make appropriate decisions on the use of hidden cameras, or any type of recording equipment, to monitor someone’s care.
CQC’s chief inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, (left) said: “We all want people using health and social care services to receive safe, effective, high quality and compassionate care. It is what everyone has a right to expect.
“Sadly, we know that does not always happen and the anxiety and distress this causes people, either for themselves or a loved one, is simply awful.
“For some, cameras or other forms of surveillance, whether openly used by services or hidden by families, are the answer. Others feel this is an invasion of people’s privacy and dignity. Many don't know what to do if they are concerned.”
The CQC has spent the last year talking to people who use services, their families and carers as well as providers about the hugely controversial subject. Information for providers was published in December, setting out the responsible steps they need to take into account when considering or already using open or hidden surveillance.
This latest information for the public explains what people can do if they are worried about someone’s care and the things they need to think about if they are considering using any form of recording equipment.
“I hope that this information helps the public to make the right decisions for them,” said Andrea Sutcliffe. “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.”
Beth Britton, a freelance campaigner and writer, who was former carer to her father who had vascular dementia, said: “As someone whose father experienced a six-month period of poor care in a care home that led directly to his death, I look back on that time now and wonder if I could have done more to halt what was happening by using a method of surveillance.
“Many families face very difficult decisions and feel utterly bereft when they know of, or suspect, poor care but feel they cannot prove it.
“Surveillance is clearly only one option, and certainly won’t be a route that every family wants to take, but given that different methods of surveillance have received some high-profile coverage in the media, information on this difficult topic is important, not least because it also sets out clear advice for families on who they can contact when they are worried about poor care.”
Care and Support minister Norman Lamb said: "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.
"We are committed to preventing poor care from happening in the first place and have introduced tougher standards for inspecting care services as well as measures to shut down those that aren't up to scratch.”
Gavin Terry, policy manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said: "This is a complex matter as people with dementia may struggle to, or be unable to, communicate instances of abuse or neglect leaving them in a very vulnerable position.
"Choosing to use a hidden camera is a decision not to be taken lightly and should only be a last resort. If the person with dementia is unable to consent, any surveillance must be made with their best interests at heart, and be carried out in the least restrictive way possible as it is could compromise their privacy, dignity and basic human rights.
"It is a scandal that we live in a world where families are put in this awful predicament. It is essential that care services provide high quality training to all staff and are regularly monitored and inspected to ensure instances of poor care are stamped out."