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Mental capacity: monitoring and consent

Monitoring device: Man installing a CCTV camera

Surveillance has become a common part of everyday life. From CCTV and alarms to remote monitoring cameras and GPS tracking on mobile phones, there are so many different ways of tracking our movements and the things that we do.

Of course, these same technologies are also used in health and care settings. Anything from door alarms to fall mats, body cams and lifelines, there are a whole range of different devices out there to help protect the safety of service users, visitors and staff.

Understanding and consent

While surveillance and monitoring devices can help add an extra layer of safety and security in a health and care setting, we need to be careful not to adopt a blanket approach. It can be all too easy to think that these tools are there to help us, so ‘why not?’ However, we must be sure to follow best practice guidance around data protection and informed consent.

In this case, there must be a clear, proportionate and reasoned justification for the use of monitoring devices alongside detailed risk assessments and procedures for their use, that uphold privacy, dignity and least restrictive practices. The care team should also seek informed consent from those impacted and, if appropriate, ensure that the relevant Mental Capacity Assessments and Best Interest Decisions are in place for those service users who may not be able to make decisions for themselves. Without all of these things in place, it raises safeguarding issues and more.

There are a number of regulatory bodies that monitor the use of surveillance devices in health and care settings. These include the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – both of which provide guidance around this matter which is highly recommended reading. Other resources can be found at NHS procedures, MDU, Unison, and the Government website.

Protecting vulnerable people

While it may seem onerous to go through such rigorous processes to monitor those in our care, we need to remember that these systems are there to protect vulnerable people, and uphold freedoms and rights under the law. They strive to ensure these monitoring devices are not misused in an intentionally or unintentionally way of abusive, controlling, or coercive behaviour, while promoting autonomy and privacy.  If monitoring devices are not used appropriately, this leaves staff and organisations liable under law.

For more information around the Mental Capacity Act, including any issues discussed in this blog, please get in touch.

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