Should care homes be monitored with hidden cameras?

Lawrence McGinty

Former Science and Medical Editor

Hidden cameras in care homes raises the question of privacy versus security. Credit: PA

Imagine you're looking for a care home for your mother. You find one that looks good - purpose built, pretty light and airy, and even rated as "excellent" by the watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

What would you think if you knew that the CQC might use hidden cameras to check whether the care your mum received was up to scratch or whether she was being abused? An invasion of privacy? Or a regrettably necessary precaution?

Well, the CQC wants to know what you think because it is seriously considering introducing hidden cameras as part of its new system of inspections being introduced next year.

It was, of course, hidden cameras that uncovered the scandal at Winterbourne View. And two years ago, when Jane Worroll was worried about mysterious bruises on her mothers body, she bought a hidden camera and put it in her mothers room at the Ash Court Care Centre. The video she obtained sent a care worker to jail for abuse.

So hidden cameras can reveal poor, even horrifying care. But is that worth the threat to your loved one's privacy?

The CQC is also beefing up its inspections in two other ways.

First they are going to reorganise so their inspectors specialise just on care homes. Up to now they've inspected not just care homes, but other health providers. From next Spring, they will be dedicated to care homes.

Perhaps even more important they are going to build an army of citizen inspectors. They call them experts by experience. They are people who know what care homes are like because they have lived in one or have relatives who have. The CQC currently has about 300 of them and they want to expand the army to around 1000.

More and more people are living in care homes and, in my book, the inspectors can get as tough as they like to make sure those people are well looked after.