Comment

Body cameras and why nurses should keep an open mind

Use of bodycams needs more research, but evidence suggests they may have a role
illustration shows figure surrounded by security cameras – as trial suggests some benefits from their use

Use of bodycams needs more research, but evidence suggests they may have a role

If youre reading this while travelling, your image has probably been recorded. If you are on public transport, you will have been captured on CCTV numerous times. Even your walk along the street or shopping trip will be recorded at several points.

You might be reading this on your phone at home, but your digital movements will still have been recorded with more data captured about your interests and browsing preferences.

General acceptance of widespread surveillance

We tend to accept these intrusions in the interests of public safety and have become almost immune to their presence. It could be argued

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Use of bodycams needs more research, but evidence suggests they may have a role


Camera and online surveillance is a fact of life in the UK, but throws up complex
questions when recording devices are used in healthcare Picture: iStock

If you’re reading this while travelling, your image has probably been recorded. If you are on public transport, you will have been captured on CCTV numerous times. Even your walk along the street or shopping trip will be recorded at several points.

You might be reading this on your phone at home, but your digital movements will still have been recorded – with more data captured about your interests and browsing preferences.

General acceptance of widespread surveillance

We tend to accept these intrusions in the interests of public safety and have become almost immune to their presence. It could be argued we tolerate them in the interests of the greatest number, and that those who object need to see the bigger picture.

Our involvement in such surveillance is passive, and we go about our business unaware of cameras most of the time. We may even feel comforted when on public transport, and a bit more secure feeling we are not alone. Big Brother really is watching us.

But what if our involvement were to become more active? What if we were expected to record clinical interactions routinely and to inform clients that we are doing so?

Trial of bodycams at a mental health trust

Trials of body-worn cameras in mental health settings have been added to the already present CCTV.

In a recent study by UK researchers, 50 cameras were supplied to West London NHS Trust for nurses to wear in seven mental health wards. The study was carried out from March to October 2018 and the data gathered compared with those from the same wards for the same period in 2017.  

The researchers found there were 14 restraints requiring tranquilising injections before the body cameras were introduced; this fell to four when the cameras were worn. Verbal aggression also declined – from 94 incidents to 75.

However, patient violence not requiring restraint was more common during the study – rising from 64 to 82 incidents.


Can body-worn cameras play a role in reducing violence in mental health wards? Picture: iStock

Possible benefits for interactions between mental health nurses and clients

The results are far from unequivocal, and the RCN has called for more research into the use of body cameras. But the findings may indicate that – just like those worn by the police – body cameras can have a positive effect on nurses’ interactions with clients.

If the nurse feels it is in the best interests of both parties, they may record an interaction with a client. Having a record of the interaction for review could lead to positive changes in behaviour for all involved.

But we know that being recorded can affect how we behave, and this may produce unforeseen consequences for the relationships we are attempting to build with clients.

Trust me, I’m a nurse, and could you speak a little louder for the recording please?


Ian Hulatt is consultant editor of Mental Health Practice

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