Spy cameras could be used to end care home abuse as inspectors are told to ask themselves: 'Is this good enough for my mum?'

  • Hidden cameras and undercover spot checks could be used to clamp down on care home abuse, it has been revealed
  • Inspectors would be told to ask: 'Is this good enough for my mum?'

Hidden cameras and undercover spot checks could be used to clamp down on the scandal of care home abuse.

The new chief inspector of adult social care yesterday revealed she was considering whether to use spy cameras to catch care workers accused of mistreating the elderly.

Andrea Sutcliffe unveiled a new approach to the regulation of elderly care providers, saying the key thing that inspectors would be told to ask was: ‘Is this good enough for my Mum?’.

New approach

New approach: Hidden cameras and undercover spot checks could be used to clamp down on the scandal of care home abuse (file picture)

Her new report comes a week after it emerged that the number of cases of elderly abuse reported to local councils had soared by 28 per cent over the last year - but a third never face justice.

The Care Quality Commission watchdog has been accused of not acting quickly enough to stamp out poor care, such as at the Winterbourne View care home where residents were abused by callous staff.

Mrs Sutcliffe said she wanted to improve things by recruiting hundreds of people with experience of social care - either through their own lives or that of their relatives - to act as inspectors.

Key question

Key question: Andrea Sutcliffe, the new chief inspector of adult social care, said inspectors would be told to ask was 'Is this good enough for my Mum?'

Some could even take part in undercover ‘mystery shopping’ exercises to check whether care was as good as it should be and whether people were being treated with compassion.

She said that inspections of care homes and the companies that provide home helps would be structured around five key questions that the CQC believes are the ones which matter most to people - whether services are safe, caring, effective, well-led and responsive.

And the commission will have greater powers to step in if a care provider’s finances look dodgy.

This is to put an end to the scandal which two years ago saw homes owned by Southern Cross facing closure after the owners faced financial problems.

Mrs Sutcliffe 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.’

Abuse

Abuse: BBC's Panorama filmed residents of Winterbourne View hospital being slapped, kicked, sat on and drenched with water

Shocking: The undercover footage also showed patients being slapped and dragged into showers while fully clothed, while others were taunted and teased

Shocking: The undercover footage also showed patients being slapped and dragged into showers while fully clothed, while others were taunted and teased

The CQC said it will discuss the risks and potential benefits of mystery shoppers and hidden cameras to monitor care, and whether they could contribute to promoting a culture of safety and quality.

But Mrs Sutcliffe said the organisation had to balance this against the risk that the privacy and dignity of care home residents could be put at risk if cameras are installed in their rooms.

The question of whether to use spy cameras would be left to a public consultation.

‘People have used hidden cameras to expose poor care, but we have got to take into account the fact that adult social care can sometimes involve incredibly personal and intimate care,’ she said.

''We need to consider residents' human rights and whether their privacy is being invaded'
- Davina Ludlow
 

‘We need to balance that with the need to expose poor care.’

Care homes which do not meet high standards would be closed down, she pledged.

‘We would have to think very carefully about using these powers, because we know that a closure of a care home can be incredibly disruptive to their lives,’ she said.

Davina Ludlow, director of carehome.co.uk, leading guide to care homes, said: ‘We abhor abuse and neglect in care homes and if covert surveillance gives greater protection to care home residents, then that is a good thing.

‘However, a care home is a person’s home and we do need to consider residents’ human rights and whether their privacy is being invaded.

'There is also the problem of what you would do about residents who have dementia and are not in a position to make a decision over whether they want to be filmed.

‘Audio recording would be another option as this is less invasive and some care homes already use this for training sessions with staff so they can see where they can improve.’