Guidance has been issued to help families who suspect their relatives are suffering from neglectful treatment in hospitals and care homes secure evidence through secret filming – and it is advice which appears helpful, considered and sensible.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which has produced the 11-page guide, admits opinion is divided about the use of hidden cameras in such situations, and of course, any encouragement of it.
However, it has defended its decision to publish the document by pointing to the fact that many are already taking this form of action when worried about the care of their relatives.
Of course, some have argued about a potential breach of human rights, particularly for the many excellent care staff working up and down the country, who should of course not come under suspicion by association.
However, as experts in handing claims relating to care home abuse or neglect, we know that when relatives become increasingly concerned about a family member’s care, they will do all they can to uncover the truth.
One of our cases hit the headlines last year after staff in a West Yorkshire residential care home were secretly filmed by the family of 89-year-old Ivy Robinson and caught subjecting her to neglect and abuse over a five day period.
Mrs Robinson was assaulted and neglected, with video footage – captured when family placed a camera in an alarm clock – showing her being dragged across a room, making her scream in pain, and being threatened with violence. Try telling her family they shouldn’t have done what they did.
Another case we have handled saw a concerned daughter gain evidence of neglect and abuse in a care home when placing a Dictaphone down the side of her mother’s wheelchair.
Without both families taking such steps, the poor care and abuse may never have been uncovered.
Care home operators would have continued operating with poor standards, and those members of staff who were subjecting patients to abuse would still be caring for the relatives of others. Instead, they faced legal action.
Therefore, we at Neil Hudgell Solicitors believe it can only be a positive move to provide this advice. Families will always look to gain evidence on camera if they can, especially in the modern age where filming is so easy on mobile phones and digital cameras.
Hopefully this guidance will help ensure they approach the situation carefully.
Quite rightly, the guidance says that if people do have concerns, they should be raised with the provider of services first.
However, we know from vast experience that this can prove an unfruitful and frustrating process.
Families often feel their concerns are not being listened to, and worse, that staff and managers are obstructive in giving them the information they request.
The new guidance is that where possible, permission should be gained from the individual being cared for before filming, and if they are unable to do so, filming must be shown to be in their best interests.
Equipment should only be used in a person’s private room, and the privacy of anyone recorded must also be considered, including staff and visitors. These all seem very reasonable and helpful guidelines.
We know how distressing it is for families who fear their loved ones may be being mistreated.
Anything that assists them in looking out for their relatives, and puts greater focus on the care industry as a whole to improve and then uphold the highest of standards, has to be a positive step.