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Nurses call for an end to covert filming in care homes

Nurses voted to oppose covert surveillance, video and audio filming in nursing and care homes at the annual Royal College of Nursing (RCN) conference in Bournemouth yesterday.

Gill Cooksey from the RCN Suffolk branch, who called for the motion said that the use of covert surveillance doesn't necessarily insure an improvement in the quality of care nurses receive.

The issue of covert filming also brought up ethical considerations in the debate this morning, such as who will see the recording, how it will be stored and disposed of, and how it needs to be edited to provide context, as well as nurse and patient confidentiality issues.

Cooksey said: "Choosing care for an elderly parent is one of the most stressful decisions we'll ever have, higher than getting married, choosing a school or buying a house in terms of worry."

If covert surveillance continued, she questioned whether this would lead to CCTV in general practice or hospitals. She said that there are "other, better ways to stop abuse," such as training, continous professional development, and better staffing levels. 

Responding to this vote, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN said: "People think abuse is physical or verbal, but neglect is just as abusive and covert filming will not pick that up.

"Let's say you've got an elderly person with multiple pressure ulcers, even just touching them or manouevring them and they can be in huge pain. So you could have a clip of film where a nurse is trying to turn a patient and they're crying out in agony, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're being cruel. I don't think covert filming is going to address deficits of care," he said.

Andy Shum, a nurse from RCN South-West London Inner Branch, asked the audience of nurses; "where will the recordings end up? On social media and twitter? Where will the dignity be? It could lead to more defensive practices and must be addressed another way."

The main alternative solution to covert filming suggested by nurses repeatedly during the debates, was to increase staffing levels so that supervision and staff development issues could be addressed. 

Sheila Dunbar, a nurse from the RCN Cheshire West branch, said that she never has time to supervise the people she works with, as the requirement is only for one registered nurse at a care home, so "at times there's one registered nurse with 70 patients. We need to campaign on staffing levels and supervision in care homes," she said.

Offering information on using cameras to monitor care, Andrea Sutcliffe, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) chief inspector of adult social care said in February: "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're concerned."

See the CQC's information on covert filming here