Independent local commissioners, not CCTV

The court case involving bullying at Oakfoss House Residential Care Home in Pontefract and subsequent prison sentence for a senior carer in 2012 has led to a new campaign calling for compulsory CCTV to be installed in all residential care homes.

Dr Richard Taylor, co-leader of the NHA, has cautioned against such a move. In a statement he said,
“It is always shocking to uncover such terrible actions by those we trust to care for our loved ones. We understand why CCTV is being called for, but we believe such an action could ultimately lead to the opposite effect that the family is trying to achieve.
We always want the best care for our families. In care homes this centres on well trained staff with good staffing ratios, just as it does in the health service. We want to see not just people’s physical needs attended to promptly but also attention paid to their general wellbeing.

In cases such as Pontefract this is clearly not the situation, nor is it the first case of bullying or abuse in a care home. We need to understand the pressures and weaknesses in the system that allow abuse to go unchallenged and devise robust mechanisms for complaints to be easily reported and rectified.

We are calling for the establishment of independent commissioners based locally to deal with complaints or suspicion of poor treatment in NHS or care homes in a timely and transparent fashion.”

The NHA says the CCTV campaign must also be seen in the context of today’s report by the Public Accounts Committee into health and social care which raises concern over the level of funding cuts in this sector. Local Authorities are paying lower fees to providers of care in a cost cutting exercise and this is having a serious effect in low pay and poor working conditions of nearly a quarter of a million social care workers. Safeguarding referrals for elderly and disabled people have risen by 13% in the 2 years since 2011.

Dr Taylor added, “With such severe cuts in social care provision we must call into question the wisdom of attempting to deal with this problem by putting cameras in place to catch the perpetrators. We fear that introducing surveillance in an already pressurised environment would promote an atmosphere of distrust. Surely we need to promote good practice and foster a culture of trust and openness. That is to say to prevent the abuse happening in the first place. With reductions in staffing levels is there not also the serious risk that surveillance of patients at a distance via the CCTV might take the place of a nurse or care worker at the bedside?

Better staffing levels and improved training, combined with better access to a more responsive complaints procedure, would lead to greater peace of mind for families and happier and healthier lives for those who live in care homes. Surely that should be the desired outcome, not a system based on the permanent policing of staff.

First published by the National Health Action Party