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Legal Issues Surrounding CCTV in Care Homes and the GDPR

Studio 9-0 image care homeWithin the UK, there are more than 15 million adults over the age of 60, making up nearly 23% of the population. In the next several years, this number is expected to rise to 22 million as the largest generation of baby boomers ages. The healthcare system in the UK is positioned in such a way to help the elderly population in transitioning to assisted living care homes for the remainder of their life, but with this transition often comes concerns of abuse and neglect. According to the most recent statistics on care home residents, an estimated 500,000 adults are abused in the later years of their lives. This abuse may come by way of physical or emotional abuse, but regardless of how it presents, it can be devastating to both the older adult and his or her family.

To help combat elder abuse within the care home system in the UK, several initiatives have been put in place. One of the more controversial updates is the use of CCTV in care facilities throughout the region. While this method has the potential to halt some abuse in its tracks, the updated GDPR law has many concerned about the legal and privacy issues surrounding CCTV use.

The Need for CCTV in Care Homes

Supporters of CCTV in care homes throughout the UK voice their advocacy for cameras to help prevent the abuse of older adults. Ongoing surveillance of residents in care homes, alongside their visitors, staff members, and medical providers offers a way to monitor activity at all times with accuracy. With this always-on surveillance, care home staff have a more viable method for identifying potential abuse of residents before more serious issues arise. The growing number of abuse cases in the elderly population may warrant CCTV use, but concerns abound regarding the privacy and legality of doing so with or without the consent of the residents.

The case for CCTV use was made more apparent after a survey conducted in 2014 of more than 2,000 care workers in the UK. The survey results highlighted the fact that three out of five care home staff members agreed that installing a visible camera in residential care homes would be beneficial in the long run. However, more than 70% of the same members surveyed felt that CCTV cameras may present privacy issues that could be a challenge to overcome, even with the potential reduction in elder abuse.

Potential Legal Issues with GDPR

In 2012, the European Commission started the process of data protection reform to help modernize its approach in the ever-changing digital age. Part of this reform process included the General Data Protection Regulation – a new framework designed to offer new rules to give individuals living in the EU more control over their personal data. In addition to simplifying the regulatory landscape surrounding privacy issues, the reform presents challenges in implementing initiatives like adding CCTV to care homes, even with the consent of residents. This is because recordings contain information that can be used to identify individuals alongside their health status which may lead to more complex privacy issues than care home are able to manage on their own.

A group of experts in medical negligence claims handling several care home abuse cases each year explains that while CCTV may be beneficial, the updated regulation laid out by GDPR must be followed in order for advantages to be realised for care home residents. One of the most glaring issues in care home abuse cases revolves around avoidable pressure sores which take place when an individual is not moved from one position to another over the course of time. Adding CCTV in care homes helps prevent this avoidable issue by offering surveillance as to when residents are transported in and out of bed, or to other locations. However, any care home staff must take great care to get the consent of care home residents for CCTV use, even with this far-reaching benefit, and be mindful of following the updated rules for data privacy along the way.

As the legal landscape continues to shift to keep up with modern times, it is necessary for both individuals and organisations to understand how privacy rules and regulations impact their day to day lives. CCTV has the potential to make a significant difference in reducing the number of care home resident abuse cases each year, giving some peace of mind to the elderly population and their loved ones. However, the only way surveillance like CCTV will be advantageous to care home residents is when they understand how the data will be used and ultimately protected as it relates to their privacy over time.


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