Invest in more staff, not CCTV, to improve care in nursing homes

CCTV should be used routinely in care settings so that unacceptable standards of nursing can be detected and the perpetrators brought to account. At least that is what Martin Johnson, professor of nursing at Salford, says in this week's Nursing Standard.

Professor Johnson will not have leapt to this conclusion overnight, and his idea is worth proper consideration. But surely CCTV is no substitute for proper management of staff and appropriate supervision?

During a follow-up debate hosted by Nursing Standard on Twitter, Professor Johnson pointed out that undercover filming by nurses on behalf of TV companies had exposed poor care. Margaret Haywood at the Royal Sussex and Terry Bryan at Winterbourne View won plaudits from their fellow professionals and the public for taking a stand when their patients were suffering.

Twenty years ago the paediatrician David Southall showed health visitors at their annual conference the results of secret filming in which mothers were abusing their babies when professionals' backs were turned. I was in the room reporting for Nursing Standard and it was as shocking as it was compelling. If ever the ends justified the means, this was an example, even though Mr Southall later ran into trouble for some of his methods.

But in all of these examples the filming was covert, whereas Professor Johnson would like to see CCTV used routinely. As with covert filming, there would be considerable ethical issues to resolve, and the practicalities could be insurmountable.

For starters, how many cameras would have to be installed on every ward, in every theatre, at every care home? What would that cost? And wouldn't that money be better spent on more staff, which would make abuse less likely in the first place?

About the author

Graham Scott is editor of Nursing Standard, published by RCNi