Of Hidden Cameras, Care and Panorama

Tonight’s  Panorama is focusing on care of the elderly or rather, lack of care. Maria Worroll was placed by her mother in a care home in Camden which had an ‘excellent’ rating by the CQC (Care Quality Commission).

Jane Worroll, Maria’s daughter, noticing something amiss and perhaps having concerns, set up a hidden camera in her mother’s room to observe how her mother’s treatment. Mistreatment and abuse were filmed and it led to a conviction by a care worker, Jonathan Aquino, under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act (2005) and a jail term of 18 months.

There are a few key points to take into this and to note. Prior to June 2011 (when the filming took place), the previous assessment and inspection by the CQC was in 2009. It was an unannounced inspection and as described above, the outcome found the home was excellent.

There were a couple of ‘compliance’ visits after the incidents films came to light but the important thing to note is that an excellent care home can provide appalling care if there is one abusive care worker. Similarly a care home which may have a poor inspection report can provide excellent care if there are caring and good quality care staff. Historical reports of care by regulators actually tell us little about the quality of the care today, at this moment, as staff in these care homes tend to be transient and low paid.

There is an issue about management culture of course. I have seen a switch in manager making both a very positive and very negative effect on residents in these homes. While more regular ‘spot’ inspections – perhaps by lay visitors as well as official regulatory bodies – may be one answer, it may not root out the individually abusive members of staff. A much better way to do that is to firm up whistleblowing procedures and supervision procedures for care workers – perhaps more peer discussion and supervision as well as managerial supervision.

As for the effects I see, I am no longer surprised by the increase in surveillance by family members which is a definite increased trend that I’m seeing. While there may be issues of privacy, the concerns of families are very real.

Until our care systems can provide better qualities of regulating and monitoring care – and not only from the CQC but from commissioners – whether they be local authorities or privately funded – there will always be these questions that linger at the back of the mind.

I expect I’ll be watching tonight, if I am able. I think I know what I’ll see but it is important that these incidents come to light so that changes in the systems can be made. This is one incident but it is very far from isolated. Our society needs to deliver the type of care and the methods of monitoring of care and the financial provisions for care that are not age-dependent. Until we do so, I can only infer that the systems of social care in this country are inherently ageist.

8 thoughts on “Of Hidden Cameras, Care and Panorama

  1. What would happen if someone were to use a hidden camera in a mental health context? I reckon this will happen sooner or later. Mobile recording devices are cheap and available and, if people are frustrated by poor quality care, I expect they will increasinlgy turn to technology to collect evidence.

    In my case I made the decision to do face-to-camera television interviews myself for the BBC and I spoke live on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. I have more confidence with the media than most service users because I am a journalist by background. Here are the links to my interviews:


    Only one interview is still on the iPlayer – my first one.

    I do not want to say much more about the details because all this is still a matter of dispute between me and CPFT. What I have said so far has all cleared BBC legal hoops.

    To cut a long story short I recently met Dr Attila Vegh, the new chief executive of CPFT, and I put it to him that CPFT has no long term interest in supressing the right to freedom of expression amongst service users and carers. He agreed in general terms but his answers do not satisfy me because CPFT has not admitted that it was wrong to give me grief for going to the BBC. I do not see that I was (or still am) mentally ill because I criticised my nurses on television.

    I do not think we should be in a situation in which we should feel the need to resort to hidden cameras. As a last resort, yes, but not as a matter of routine. We need better ways of scrutinising the quality of care for vulnerable people and in practice the media is often the regulator of last resort so please do not gag us service users.

    Freedom of expression in mental health is one of those neglected rights which is seldom discussed by mental health professionals but to my way of thinking freedom of expression is a core component of good mental health.

    • Thanks Beatrice. I think we’ll see (we are seeing currently) much more use of hidden cameras in all care contexts. Of course there should be no need to resort to hidden cameras – that’s the challenge we are in as the care system is rightly scrutinised. Users are absolutely central to creating and communicating the problems in the system which is why I welcome complaints to improve care however we must always protect those who are not able to vocalise the problems they have with the treatment they receive.

  2. I agree that there is no way that the regulators provide a “real” perspective of the care a home provides. If you wish to help stop terrible abuse happening you can – post a review about the carehome you have knowledge of on carehome-reviewer.com. Relatives and friends of residents, residents themselves, staff or ex-staff. Have your say and help end this appalling situation. carehome-reviewer.com is a new website set up by a woman who has first hand knowledge of the upset caused when a loved ones requires residential care. She has set this up as her late mothers legacy – for the greater good. Get involved now.

  3. I thought your remark about an excellent home being capable of providing appalling care with just one bad worker was right on the money. It just takes one person who is there for the wrong reasons to cause misery for the residents. With how cheap it is to get a small videocamera these days, I suspect we’ll see more of this, and provided it is used to root out bad workers and shoddy owners, rather than trash the reputation of otherwise good homes, I see that as a good thing. Looking into the far future, I wonder how hard it will be to get away with this sort of thing when the tech-savvy people who are now in their twenties become in need of adult care

  4. Pingback: Panorama and Ash Court – Towards Improvements « The Not So Big Society

  5. I had to find a care home for my dad who had Parkinson’s – it was no easy task and so to help others in the future I spent my mum’s legacy and created a site where people can review care homes they have experience of. If we post reviews we will build a more realistic picture of what homes are like from the very good to the very bad.

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