The CQC are considering using hidden cameras and mystery-shopper exercises as part of a revamped inspection regime for care homes in England next year.
Proposals unveiled by the Care Quality Commission have said that they will hold discussions over “the potential use of hidden surveillance”. Andrea Sutcliffe, the CQC's new chief inspector of adult social care, has outlined her priorities in a document entitled ‘A Fresh Start for the Regulation and Inspection of Adult Social Care', ahead of a public consultation next spring.
The document states “We would … like to have an open conversation with people about the use of mystery shoppers and hidden cameras, and whether they would contribute to promoting a culture of safety and quality, while respecting people's rights to privacy and dignity.”
A spokesman for the CQC has said that the idea of using hidden cameras in targeted circumstances where traditional inspections were not appropriate.
“We are not talking here about putting a camera in every care home because that would break all sorts of rules around people's rights,” he said.
“If we were to do it, it could be in situations such as, for example, if there were questions about carers not turning up at people's homes or not turning up on time. There is the potential for using cameras there, obviously with the consent of those being cared for and their families.”
There was a mixed initial reaction to the ideas, with the Alzheimer's Society welcoming plans to overhaul adult social care inspections at a time when it said public confidence in the care sector is at an all-time low.
“With most adults in the UK scared of moving into a home and care in the community often failing to meet people's needs, we desperately need to restore faith in services,” a spokesman added.
Davina Ludlow, director of care home directory carehome.co.uk, warned about the possible impact on care users and staff, adding: “Whilst safeguarding is vital, so too is dignity and privacy.”
“We urge full and meaningful consultation before digital spies infiltrate the care sector. Not only will covert surveillance impact on residents' freedom, it may also have a knock-on effect on the motivation of staff. We need to train, support and inspire the next generation of carers, not create a big brother culture where people are afraid to do this vital job.”
Other proposals include awarding ratings to every care home and adults social care service by March 2016 to help people make informed decisions about their care, reports the Guardian.
Ms Sutcliffe, who began last week, also wishes to recruit members of the public with personal experiences of the care system to help carry out inspections. She said: “This is a fresh start for how care homes, home care, and other adult social care services are inspected and regulated across the country. I will be leading CQC's new approach by making more use of people's views and by using expert inspection teams involving people who have personal experience of care.
“We will always be on the side of the people who use care services. For every care service we look at, I want us to ask: 'Is this good enough for my mum?'. If it is, this should be celebrated. If not, then as the regulator we will do something about it.”Adult social care is the largest and fastest growing sector that CQC regulates and so it is imperative that we get it right.”