CQC guidance on surveillance technology in care services


CQC in December produced guidance on the use of surveillance technology. The commission suggests that it can help services:

  • protect people’s safety, for example from the risk of unsafe care or treatment
  • keep premises and property secure
  • help people stay safe without restricting their activities.

Open surveillance

Care services are more likely to use surveillance openly (overt surveillance). Which requires the provider to tell everyone that it affects. You can do this by talking to them before you start using surveillance or by putting up clear notices. In some circumstances, you may need their consent.

Covert surveillance

This is when you use hidden cameras or microphones people are not aware of. This is only likely to be appropriate in rare circumstances, if you have a pressing reason and only plan to use it for a short time. For example, you might decide to use it to identify a specific incident or allegation.

Regulations

If the provider uses surveillance to help keep people safe or monitor their wellbeing, CQC will treat it as part of their care. This means it must meet the regulations under the Health and Social Care Act.

But any recordings made of people also count as information about them. Collecting information about people is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Things to be carried out before commencing surveillance

Before they start providers must be able to identify the purpose for using surveillance – the thing you want to achieve. The provider should:

  • Carry out an initial assessment
  • Check the right regulations
  • Fill in a data protection impact assessment
  • Carry out a needs assessment
  • What you should record

Records to be kept by the provider

The provider must keep a record of:

  • your purpose for using surveillance, including how it supports people’s needs
  • your initial assessment
  • your DPIA, if you’ve completed one
  • what alternatives to surveillance you’ve considered.

Consultation

The provider should tell people:

  • why they are considering surveillance (your purpose)
  • what type of surveillance they are thinking about using
  • where they are considering using it
  • what information they will collect
  • where and how they will store the information
  • who will have access to the information and how long will they keep it.

It’s best to keep a record of the process when people are consulted, along with their responses. Providers are reminded that initial consultation with people is not the same as getting consent.

People raising concerns

People who use your service or their families may raise concerns about privacy. If they do, the provider must take steps to address them. The aim is to make the impact on people’s privacy as small as possible.

Equipment and staff training

When choosing equipment, the provider must ensure it’s fit for purpose. For example, it may need to capture video at a high enough resolution that you can recognise people.

Staff training and record keeping

Staff must be properly trained in handling information gathered by surveillance.

To protect people’s information providers must make sure:

  • staff are properly trained in handling information gathered by surveillance
  • they have clear policies and procedures for when people ask for access to recordings, about sharing information and for complaints about surveillance
  • they keep a record of who has had access to the information, when and why
  • they have a clear policy about keeping information and recordings secure, how long you keep them for, and when and how you destroy them
  • if someone else (like a security company) is handling personal data on their behalf, their contract with them must set out clear rules on how they process it.

Use of hidden cameras

People sometimes worry about a loved one and their care. They might use hidden cameras or microphones to give themselves reassurance. If the provider finds that surveillance is being used in their service, it’s important to put the interests of the person first.

Summary

The appropriate use of surveillance technology will be a cause for concern for many providers.  The requirements of the GDPR have added another dimension to the importance of correctly handling people’s data. Before contemplation of its use providers would be well advised to refer to the CQC guidance on their website.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute
Managing Director
Bettal Quality Consultancy

CQC is driving social care services to make more use of technology


According to CQC technology is changing the way people provide care and treatment. It suggests that there are huge benefits to be gained for people who use services, families, carers and providers. But it’s important technology and innovation never come at the expense of high-quality, person-centred care.

Benefits of technology in care

Technology can:

  • give people more control over their health, safety and wellbeing
  • support them to be more independent or feel less isolated
  • link them to services which are important for them
  • enhance the care or treatment providers offer
  • help them communicate with families, professionals and staff
  • help staff to prioritise and focus their attention on people who need it most
  • capture and compare data and share good practice with peers.

If providers are to make the best use of technology then people’s safety, dignity and consent must be at the centre of decisions about their care. This applies to decisions about the use of new technology. Being clear about people’s rights, privacy and choice must always come first.

Questions to ask before using technology

CQC ask providers to consider the following question if they are thinking about using technology to deliver care.

  • How will you involve people who use your service in your plans and putting the new technology into use?
  • What do the people it will affect need to know to make an informed choice? Do they fully understand the implications of the new technology?
  • Who will the technology affect and how will it affect them?
  • What outcome do you want to achieve? How will you measure it?
  • Will the technology fully meet the needs of the people using your service? If not, what else do you need to provide?
  • Are there more appropriate ways to meet these needs?
  • What are the practical and legal issues you need to think about before you introduce new technology?
  • What are the risks and how will you manage them? Particularly during transition and early implementation of the technology or system. What is your contingency plan to keep people safe?
  • How have you involved your staff? What information and training do they need so they can be confident and competent? This includes understanding their responsibilities and         how to respond to associated risks.

Innovative use of technology can help answer our five key questions

When CQC inspect and monitor health and social care services, there are five key questions they ask. The following examples illustrate how technology can support good and outstanding person-centred care.

Safe

Helping ensure key information is accurate and easy to share with caring professionals in real time

Effective

Supporting effective communication and more efficient use of resources, including finances

Caring

Supporting person-centred care and helping staff to spend more time on the things that really matter

Responsive to people’s needs

Supporting providers to be more proactive and responsive to changing needs by helping to identify developing risks or needs more quickly

Well-led

Supporting more effective quality assurance through more effective communication, information sharing and improved data analysis.

Bettal Quality Consultancy

Here at Bettal we have recognised the contribution that technology can make to high quality social care services. We have developed a digital audit tool to measure a services performance against the key Lines of Enquiry. Next year we will be launching our new digital person centred plan and digital risk assessment tool.

For further information on Bettal products please visit our Care Service Products section.

Summary

CQC have recognised that technology has an important part to play in social care services. We are only at the beginning of a journey that will see far greater use of technology in the future. The benefits to service users and staff are there for all to see, and I have no doubt that in time you will see less time spent with onsite inspection. The creation of digital routs which will allow inspectors to measure social care services performance off site. This will lead to a further reduction in the number of inspectors.

However, it still needs to be repeated that technology should not be viewed as a substitute for staff time spent with service users, but rather a supportive mechanism that allows more time to be spent with them.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute
Managing Director
Bettal Quality Consultancy