PENSIONERS in five of Wigan’s biggest care homes are to have CCTV cameras installed in their rooms in a bid to tackle abuse.
The highly controversial move by the care home provider HC-One follows shocking revelations about abuse at one of its care homes (Oban House) on the BBC’s Panorama last night.
The five homes affected by the move are Carrington Court and Rosebridge Court in Hindley, Ashton View in Ashton, Westleigh Lodge and Richmond House, both in Leigh.
They are home to hundreds of vulnerable pensioners and bosses at HC-One - which runs 227 homes across the UK - say the cameras will help protect residents.
The Panorama programme has already resulted in one staff member being sacked and seven suspended from the Old Deanery in Essex home, run by Anglia Care Homes, after footage from undercover reporters revealed residents being taunted, roughly handled and, on one occasion, slapped.
Dr Chai Patel, HC-One chairman, said the filming had revealed “shocking and distressing failings” that had been acted upon as soon as it was drawn to the company’s attention.
But he said more needed to be done to ensure the safety of residents.
“That is why we feel placing cameras in care homes can only help protect the wellbeing and dignity of those we support,” Dr Patel said. “We hope that, as a society, we can start an open and honest debate on this most vital issue.”
However, the news has brought about serious concerns from both politicians and care home residents groups and care home employer unions.
The Labour MP for Makerfield, Yvonne Fovargue, said: “The use of CCTV is a deeply emotive subject with strong views on both sides of the debate but I believe this measure would command public support with appropriate safeguards, and would contribute to the safety and well being of care home residents.
“It is sad that we have arrived at a point where care failings for the most vulnerable takes undercover filming - like Panorama’s recent expose. Relatives who have concerns would have some reassurance from CCTV but we must also ensure that we strengthen existing regulation and inspection regimes.”
Judy Downey, chair of the Relatives and Residents Association, which represents care home residents says she is also concerned by the proposals.
She said: “We do consider that voluntary CCTV use could have its place, but it’s no substitute for good and kind care given by professionally trained staff who are well supported and supervised and well led.”
The news has also brought about concerns for care home workers.
The GMB union - which represents staff at all HC-One care homes - say they will be discussing the move with their members amid concerns on what they deem to be an ‘emotive subject.’
Justin Bowden, GMB national officer for the care sector, said “Cameras in care homes is a highly emotive subject which provokes understandably strong views and such a big step requires very careful consideration.”
HC-One says it has conducted a public opinion survey which it said shows 80 per cent support for the move, which would be an opt-in scheme, meaning residents and their families would have to agree to a camera being used.
The idea of using CCTV in care settings was floated last autumn by the Care Quality Commission, the sector regulator. It is understood, however, that the commission retains serious reservations about the filming of intimate care procedures.
HC-One, which was formed in 2011 out of the wreckage of the collapsed Southern Cross care home group, intends to consult its current residents, their families and its staff on a proposal of having visible cameras in communal areas and, on request, in individual rooms.