‘Covert’ cams in wards are suspended by health bosses

Trust to probe its own decision to monitor mental health patients with live-feed camera

Thursday, 23rd December 2021 — By Tom Foot

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HEALTH chiefs have sus­pended use of a new system that continuously records video footage of mental health patients in bedrooms amid concerns about “sexual safety”.

Camden and Islington Foundation Trust said it was investigating its own decision to introduce the Oxevision set-up in psychiatric wards after a patient complained this amounted to “covert surveillance”.

The equipment was being used to monitor patients’ pulse and breathing via a sensor and live-feed camera that records through the day and night.

A recent board report said the system had been piloted in Rosewood women’s ward in St Pancras Hospital but that it had been “paused and disconnected in light of the sexual safety concerns raised”.

But the Camden Borough User Group (CBUG) has said consent was not always obtained from patients.

In a statement, CBUG said it had “many concerns about the safety and ethics of this system” and was particularly concerned about the implications for the “sexual safety” of service-users.

It added: “As far as we are aware, consent was not consistently obtained from patients, who were being covertly recorded as part of this pilot programme.”

On the issue of patient consent, a C&I spokesperson said: “While the [patient] leaflet advises that the system monitors service users 24/7, we are not confident that the video element was always made clear.”

The trust said it was conducting a review into whether to resume using the technology.

A pilot of police style body worn cameras has also been “stood down” at three secure psychiatric wards in the Highgate Mental Health Centre because the “data gathered did not show any positive impact on violence and aggression”, a recent board report said.

Oxehealth said it “fully compliant with all the laws that apply to it”, adding: “It is a service that is only used where necessary and it is only used for patient benefit.”

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