CQC publishes surveillance information

Last week CQC published information for all health and adult social care providers who may be considering or already using hidden (covert) and open (overt) surveillance in their service.

The information was agreed by the CQC Board on 19 November and sets out some of the key issues providers should take into account to help ensure any decisions about the potential use of surveillance are informed, appropriate and lawful.

Commenting on the information for providers, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, said:

“We know from our engagement work with providers over the past year that the use of surveillance in any form is a complex topic and one that attracts a wide range of opinion. Some already make use of these techniques while others are adamantly opposed. It is important that providers understand the issues they need to consider – including proper consultation with the people who use services, their families and staff – before choosing to use hidden or open surveillance. I hope our information will assist them. What is most important is that providers concentrate on delivering care that is compassionate, high quality, safe and effective by ensuring they have sufficient numbers of capable and confident staff who can meet the standards people using services have every right to expect.”

CQC has stressed that it does not require providers to use surveillance and the guidance does not address whether it should be used.

Guidance

The guidance states the legal framework requires that any use of surveillance in care services must be lawful, fair and proportionate, and that it must also be used for purposes that support the delivery of safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care. The guidance also states:

• Providers should weigh the benefits of surveillance against the impact on people’s privacy.

• The use of surveillance in places where people are receiving health and social care services is likely to raise greater privacy concerns than many other kinds of business, especially where the care service is also a place where people live.

• Wherever possible, providers should consult with the people who use their service, families, other regular visitors, trade unions and staff when deciding about whether and how to use surveillance.

• Guidance on conducting a Privacy Impact Assessment, produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office, is helpful for recording privacy issues when considering surveillance (details included in an annex to the CQC guidance).

• Transparency and openness are vital in order to meet legal requirements, and to maintain the trust of people who use services and of care staff—but there may be limited circumstances where the legitimate use of covert surveillance prevents such openness for a short time.

• Providers must ensure that all staff (including contractors) involved in the use of surveillance systems are properly trained and supported.

• The equipment used must be suitable, safe and properly maintained.

• Information obtained or recorded through the use of surveillance must be kept secure, and anyone with authorised access to that information must understand their legal responsibilities.

• Where people lack mental capacity to understand or consent to the use of surveillance, providers must make decisions in accordance with the statutory principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

• Providers must ensure they comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and all other relevant legislation, at all times.

• Providers should document the steps they take when deciding to use surveillance, as evidence of these steps may be required by a CQC inspector.

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